Free Internet providers announce plans to merge
June 10, 2001
By JIM BROOKS
In what may be the final shakeout for the free Internet movement,
NetZero and Juno Online Services announced recently they would merge
to become the nation's second largest Internet provider.
The merged company would be push MSN -- now the second-largest
Internet provider -- into third place behind America Online.
The merger, set to take place late this year, is worth an estimated
The new company will abandon both companies' names for United Online
Inc. The merger will give the company more than 7 million active subscribers.
AOL is far ahead of other Internet providers, with an estimated 29
million subscribers. Microsoft has about 5 million, Earthlink has 4.8
million, and AT&T Worldnet has about 1.3 million subscribers.
Among broadband providers, Excite@Home has about 3.2 million subscribers.
Both Juno and NetZero have struggled over the past year as online
advertising revenues had dropped dramatically.
Both services were advertising-supported, though both have been
moving to a fee-based service in recent months with varying success.
Establishing monthly charges for Internet access put both NetZero and
Juno on the same playing field as locally owned Internet providers
across the country.
These "mom and pop" companies are difficult to beat for
customer service and value, not to mention the fact that using their
services helps support a business in the subscriber's community.
Juno began in 1995 as an ad-supported free e-mail service. The
company later added free Internet access, which included the World
MAIL CALL. There's no disputing the U.S. Postal Service has
been is being hurt by the explosive growth and use of e-mail, fax
machines and the Internet to pay bills, conduct business and
communicate in general.
The Government Accounting Office projects first-class mail to
continue to grow by 1.8 percent per year through next year, according
to estimates. After 2002, the GAO predicts the volume of first-class
mail will decline at 2.5 percent per year from 2003 through 2008.
While the Postal Service may have the "snail mail"
nickname, it takes high-tech resources to coordinate the delivery of
more than 700 million pieces of mail between 136 million U.S.
locations each day, according to a postal service executive.
Mail delivery isn't going away, but with the service's current
financial crisis, the changes we may see in the future may be more
than just increases in postage. One such proposal would eliminate
Saturday delivery of mail.
While business use of e-mail has increased, some industry watchers
believe online bill paying could significantly impact the postal
service. Paying bills online is still fairly new and gaining
acceptance; there are still untapped ways to make paying for goods
and services online a much more commonplace event in people's lives.
Postal mail still has the benefit of security. Users can count on
their postal mail being secure and private.
This isn't the case with e-mail. Most businesses have a policy that
allows them total access to employees' e-mail, regardless of the
As I heard one manager say about e-mail sent from work, "What
you think is private really isn't."
No computer viruses have ever been delivered by postal mail (unless
it was on a computer disk). You don't need plug-ins or viewing
programs to read postal mail. And even if you misspell the name of
the recipient, his street and town, chances are good your letter or
package will still arrive.
Misspell an e-mail address and your message is bounced back to you
(or ends up in someone's In box as an unwanted message).
The postal service has been working to embrace e-commerce with a
variety of initiatives. It's too early to tell how well they'll
Postal mail survived other threats -- namely, the telegraph,
telephone and television. The world of communications is changing
again, but I expect postal mail will always have a role in business
and personal communications.
BIG FOUR. If you're a fan of history, you probably predicted
After the rapid growth cycle of the Internet, the big fish in the
pond have eaten many of the little fish, leaving four companies to
dominate the Internet.
AOL Time Warner, Microsoft, Yahoo and Napster now control half of all
time spent online by users in the U.S., a survey by research firm
Jupiter Media Metrix said.
AOL Time Warner now controls 32 percent of user minutes. Most of this
time is spent using e-mail and instant messaging, the survey said.
Microsoft's MSN Web portal, its Hotmail e-mail site, and online
magazine Slate get 7.5 percent of users time online.
Yahoo followed Microsoft with 7.2 percent. The company's personal
finance service and instant messaging are its top draws, the survey said.
Napster was included in the top four, though its users have dropped
significantly since it has begun to filter copyrighted material from
AMAZON EXPANSION. Online book giant Amazon.com is expanding
and diversifying its product lineup.
Amazon.com will expand its book business to include sales to
institutional customers later this year.
On the consumer side of the business, Amazon will also start selling
Analysts say online book sales have been flat for months, and
Amazon's move into new markets is a move to reinvigorate the
company's sales numbers.
The company's "Amazon Used" program is being credited for
adding 775,000 customers. It offers used copies of books alongside
the new ones.
In sales last month, one out of every 12 books sold was a used book.