Project Introduction

The easiest way to connect to the Internet is to use commercial online services such as CompuServe, America Online(AOL) and the Microsoft Network. These services provide their own proprietary information as well as various degrees of connectivity to the Internet (World Wide Web, Telnet, FTP, etc.). As many of these services have been around since the early 80s, they now have to change to adapt to the challenge of the Internet, hence the online industry is hardly recognisable from what it was just a couple of years ago. While once they proposed to take on the Internet, rivalling its content and depth of applications, they now see the Internet as a complimentary feature to their own proprietary services and in many cases their source of income. The highly profitable sector has seen huge growth in the recent past as a result of Microsoft’s entry to the market and the other two major competitors (AOL and CompuServe) have recently re-launched. This sector, while profitable, is seeking a definite identity through attempting to persuade the Internet curious public that the extra costs of connecting through an online service provider, are out-weighed by the benefits they provide. This study will investigate this sector and in particular critically analyse the proposed benefits provided by online services.

 

Service Comparisons

Most online services provide a wealth of content: such as sports, weather, business, general news, and travel information. AOL excels in this regard: It offers a lot of general-interest information, and it has more members than any other service. AOL accurately targets home-computer users by providing family related content in greater volume than other services. CompuServe has more to offer business types, including computer professionals and people who work from home. This is clear from the list of services they provide. MSN provides good content, but navigating it is tougher than it should be because windows tend to clutter the screen. MSN offers the widest variety of subscription plans (including one that gives you three hours a month for $49 a year), so it offers the best deals. For some time, Prodigy has lagged behind its competitors in, depth of features, design, and content, as well as in providing 28.8-Kbps access points. Prodigy, Version 1.5, offers its service along with basic Internet access for the same price you'd pay for AOL or CompuServe, but the service does not allow you to use third-party TCP/IP applications which we see as a major handicap. Prodigy's increasing use of Web-based content may revitalise the struggling provider, and its online tutorials do a good job of leading beginners onto the Internet.

Both MSN and CompuServe are planning to move away from their proprietary interfaces and toward providing content via the Web.

 

 

Group Members


Alphabetical listing, by last name:


Greg Balmer

Research, Content and Web Development.

balmergr@tcd.ie

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Brian Dillon

Research and Content Development.

bjdillon@tcd.ie

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Oliver Guinan

Research and Content Development.

ojguinan@tcd.ie

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Jayne Kent

Research and Content Development.

jkent@tcd.ie

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Joanne McDowell

Research and Content Development.

jmcdowll@tcd.ie

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