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November 16, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Matra-Hachette Multimedia SA, no longer a partner in the Luxembourg-based Europe On-Line SA, has, like many others, turned its attention to the Internet. Having been renamed Grolier Interactive Europe, to reflect the involvement of Matra-Hachette’s US-based CD-ROM encyclopaedia publisher Grolier, it has launched itself on the French market as a provider of low-priced, easily accessible Internet services. Internet is the television of the 90s. It is not a fad, not a gadget. It doesn’t belong to anyone. It is completely international. Our obsession is to share our passion for this new medium with everybody, said Grolier managing director Fabrice Sergent, adding that we’ve tried to break down some of the barriers to access. To that end, Grolier Interactive’s Club Internet offers consumers full and unlimited Internet access for $15 per month in Paris, and technical assistance seven days a week from noon to 9pm. Sergent noted that Grolier believes itself to be among the cheapest servers in France, but is not out to beat everybody on price, at all costs. For easing the barrier of setting up the connection, Grolier’s interface requires just a mouse-click on the ‘connection’ icon to get onto Netscape Navigator. Also, says Sergent, We will soon have 1Mbps connection toward Europe. That doesn’t mean the servers will always have rapid connections; they can be the bottleneck. The company, which also functions as a Web server design studio, has created three search engines for the Net: Jenna, la surfeuse enables Internet surfers to discover new Internet sites regularly; Sherlock Holmes offers users a key-word search capability through the millions of documents referenced on the Internet; and Le Superhero helps lost surfers by presenting a selection of the functional options available to get them back to the beach. Bruno Mannoni, manager of new technology for the Ministry of Culture, which has its own Web site, was impressed, noting that the advantage of the commercial services over the Internet today is their simplicity of use. The Internet service providers who provide easy access, as Grolier Interactive has done, will certainly be more successful than those that provide a simple IP interface, he said. Grolier has also developed a French Michelin-type guide that classifies and comments on a base of 10,000 Internet sites. We are the first and only company to do so, Sergent said. Sergent said further that he believes Grolier Interactive’s parent company Lagardere Group wants to popularise the Internet, and intends to soon add Class Online (education) and health care servers to the Club Internet offer. Sergent noted that Grolier US is available on CompuServe and Prodigy, and that Grolier Interactive Europe will be present on France En Ligne and Infonie as a publisher of information. He added, however, that our profound conviction is that the Internet is the international global medium. Furthermore, he said, using the Internet instead of multiple commercial services is purely a financial question for a publisher of content trying to put information at everyone’s disposal. In the French fashion of addressing every conceivable philosophical aspect of an issue, Grolier Interactive is offering real life services to Club Internet members, such as coupons and discounts. We want the server to reinforce human relations, to complete the duality of the virtual and the real, managing director Sergent said.

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