Columnist Gets Excited by Portal

Chicage Tribune columnist James Coates gets all hot and heavy describing his recent experience personalizing the Excite portal. He\'s so excited, he throws out his style guide, tacking a .com on the end of every second word.

Here is an excerpt from the article. To Coates\' credit, he describes a lot of the features of Excite, which few of us take time to do. A cool one is the map feature. His company (Tribune Co.) owns 1% of Excite@Home, which Coates also discloses.

It\'s not just Sophia Loren and the yields on 10-year Treasury notes that seem to get better and better as time passes, friends and neighbors.

Have you taken a gander at www.excite.com lately?

Excite.com belongs to that strange category of Web sites known as Internet portals, and if you lack one of your own or if you have one somewhere else, I\'m the lucky guy who\'s going to point the way to a great new Internet mornin\' a-comin\'.

If there\'s a Shangri-La in cyberspace, it may well be Excite.com. A bunch of new bells and whistles have been added to its offerings--things like free Internet service via dial-up, streaming radio programs and synchronization of Excite.com\'s Web address book and calendar planner with your own Palm or Windows Outlook data.

Internet portals are the Swiss Army knives of Web services that make (or, in the case of Excite.com, lose) money in the quest to persuade consumers to install them as the starting page that comes up each time the Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer Internet browsers get clicked to life.

For the record, free 56K Internet dialup access is also available through Altavista, Hotbot, Xoom, Freei, Netzero, and several others. They generally have special browsers which force you to watch advertising on their terms, but they do work quite well.

That\'s one of the strange things about portal companies. People discover a great feature offered by one company without knowing that most of the others have the same thing. What causes people to choose one over another? In many cases, the portal companies benefit from inertia (Hotmail and Internet Explorer lead people to MSN) or forms of market control (AOL subscribers are signing up for access AND content).

A bit off topic, but it should also be pointed out right now that MSN\'s massive TV ad blitz for its new \"free\" Internet service is misleading. MSN\'s free service simply mirrors the AOL 500 hours free promotion. Both expect you\'ll stay on as a paying customer when your free time is up.

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