NetZero, Juno now United Online


September 30, 2001



The two leading free or discounted Internet providers completed their merger recently and officially became United Online.

The merger of NetZero and Juno Online won't mean the brands or their services will be disappearing -- though they have been changed.

Both NetZero and Juno's offerings have been basically homogenized -- they're virtually identical now except for their brand names.

NetZero, one of the pioneers of ad-supported, free Internet access, and Juno Online, the first company to offer free e-mail service, will both provide a free Internet access service.

NetZero Free Internet includes 10 hours of free Internet access for each household. As in the past, advertising supports this free service, and an ad banner window remains open on the user's screen while online. Users also are required to click on and view an ad every 30 minutes or so, according to the Web site.

NetZero Platinum offers up to 40 hours of access per month for $9.95. Users can opt for even more time by signing up for an additional service.

Juno Online's Internet access packages are identical, though NetZero's premium service gave users access to more dial-up numbers than the free service.

Users of the free NetZero service have no access number in my area. Users are forced to make a long-distance call, though upgrading to the premium service grants access to a local number. Juno, however, had a local access number available for both its free and premium services.

Dial-up Internet access doesn't get much mention these days, but it is still the way most of America connects to the Internet. Before signing up for a national free or premium service, it pays to shop locally. In addition to the advantage of having a guaranteed local access dial-up number, you will have local experts to contact should you have questions or run into trouble.

As with many services, it's true with Internet access -- you get what you pay for.

AUCTION FUND-RAISERS., the premiere online auction Web site, is promoting its Auctions for America program in a drive to raise $100 million within 100 days.

Both auction buyers and sellers can take part in the program by donating to the program, which is advertised all throughout the Web site.

EBay has agreed to waive all fees for money from transactions processed at its Web site. Several credit card companies and online payment firms have agreed to drop fees for online transactions related to the fund-raiser.

Users don't have to purchase anything to join in the campaign -- direct donations are also welcomed.

EBay's fund-raising will benefit the September 11th Fund, the New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund, the Twin Towers Fund and the American Red Cross.

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani helped kick-off the drive by promising to provide his personal Yogi Berra-autographed baseball he received from the Yankee great on ``Yogi Berra Day'' in 1999.

Some big-ticket items were already racking up some impressive bids.

An autographed pin flag from the 2000 U.S. Open was already at $5,600 two days of bidding left. An autographed Shaquille O'Neal basketball was going for $510 with only hours left for new bids.

For more details, visit

CD MELEE. As music companies fret over ways to eliminate pirating their products -- and the practice of "ripping," or converting audio CD files to digital formats -- there may be a compromise in the works.

Music companies are experimenting with copy protection schemes to prevent users from making copies of songs on commercially produced CDs, prompting bitter criticism from consumers who stand to lose the ability to digitally record music from CD to their PCs.

While the recording industry doesn't want to make CD buyers angry, concerns over pirated music remain a big concern.

A compromise to preventing all copying of files would include placing two versions of an album on the same CD -- one in standard audio form, the second in Microsoft's Windows Media format.

The Windows Media format files could be copied to a PC, but there would be some restrictions on how the files could be used.

Music companies want to prevent files from being formatted in the popular MP3 format. Unlike the MP3 format, the Windows Media format would allow some control over the copyrighted digitized music files.

While a compromise solution, analysts say some music industry leaders are uncomfortable making a deal using Microsoft's format as the format of choice, which would be a windfall for Microsoft.

Despite Microsoft's promotion of its digital audio format, the vast majority of online music is still in MP3 format. That will likely change quickly if commercial music CDs begin showing up with files already formatted as Windows Media files.

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