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November 23, 1995

COMPUSERVE ASSESSES EUROPEAN COMPETITION AND DECIDES AMERICA ON-LINE IS ITS BIGGEST THREAT

By CBR Staff Writer

At a recent industry conference CompuServe Inc, chief executive Barry Berkov told Computergram that he believed America Online Inc represents his stiffest competition in Europe in the near term. They haven’t officially started, but they’ve hooked up with Bertelsmann, which has major distribution through its book clubs he explained. Next, you have the Microsoft Network, which, unless the EU does something, is bundled with Windows95. Europe On-Line is way down the list. They’ve not done this before and they have multiple partners with different expectations. All on-line services face the same problem, which is particularly acute for local services, of being able to attract information providers. Content is a chicken and egg issue: you have to have content to attract customers, but for the content providers to find it attractive to create content, your service has to be big enough. Europe, being fragmented into different markets, makes it harder to realise critical mass. That’s why in the US, local providers have struggled he said. He said the Internet standard is making it easier to win new content. It’s relatively easy to put up a Web site, which we can then point to on our service. Compared with trying to provide content in three to four different formats, it’s better, he said. Berkov added, however, that although it remains relatively simple to set up a rudimentary Web page, the expectations as to what it should look like have risen and people are making extentions to HTML. As a result, the best you can do is probably to sketch it out, then you will probably need a programmer or graphic designer, if you want to create forms or hooks into a database, he said. In fact, CompuServe is said to be setting up HyperText Mark-up Language-based servers in the CompuServe environment so that they have all CompuServe services, including firewalls, and pay-back and usage data for content providers. The drawback is that CompuServe HyperText Mark-up Language servers are accessible only by CompuServe members.

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