media and technology

AOL’s main screen: cuddly. graphic-tilled gateway to the digital world beyond

States of play

In the States. AOL is brandished like a designer label. Eddie Gibb cruises the freeways of the world‘s bigoest online service provider.

hen grtrnge goddess Courtney Love chose to

share her grief about husband Kurt Cobain‘s

suicide. her chosen mcditnn for reaching out to Nirvana fans was America Online. where the nation‘s disaffected youth discuss life. love and the latest episode of The X-I’i/es. It was a perfect Generation X moment. as Love bypassed the cynical music press. gagging fora rock star widow angle. to speak directly to her husband‘s fans.

The multi-million dollar corporation adopted as a mouthpiece by Love. began as a small company. propelled by a young man with a big vision. Steve Case cut his business teeth as a marketing Will/Z for Pizza Hut. In I985. aged 2o, he launched the company. applying the sales techniques of fast food to the Internet. making it easily accessible to ordinary home computer users.

Ten years later. it is winning the global battle ofthe online service providers. recently inching ahead of its nearest rival. (TompuServ e. America Online now has 5 million subscribers. mostly in the US. btrt that‘s changing too. Earlier this year the company announced a £l00 million joint venture with German media giant Bertelsmann to launch a European version of America Online. called simply. AOL. According to AOL managing director Jonathan Bulkeley. the immediate target is ovcttaking (‘otnpuServe‘s 250,000 UK. subscribers; before too long he wants one-in—ten of all homes to be hooked up to the service. ‘A()L will become synonymous with going onlrne.‘ says Bulkeley. ‘In the US it‘s the service that made it easy for my mother to go online as well as my fifteen-year- old kid.‘

So what is an online service provider anyway? Well, it‘s a source of information which is accessed via a phone line using a computer and modem. From film reviews to share prices. companies like America Online and CompuServe offer subscribers the ability to dial up all sorts of information. This isn‘t the Internet exactly, more a kind of nursery slope. but online service providers do also act as a gateway to the Net jungle. An analogy could be a High Street travel agent which will supply you with brochures on easy-

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book package holidays; it‘s not necessarily cheaper or as diverse as booking flights and accommodation directly —r the crucial advantage is its simplicity.

Just as ‘real' backpacking travellers sneer at the fortnight-in-Marbella crew. so Internet snobs regard these online service providers with some disdain. It's true that for anyone wanting straightforward lntemet. such companies don‘t make tnuch sense -— you pay a subscription plus charges for every hour spent online. But the Internet is about information. not technical know-how. and online service providers make access easy for those new to the whole game.

As a result of its populist approach. AOL has attracted the ire of hardcore computer techies who have watched as coachloads of cyber-tourists with

The multi-million dollar corporation adopted as a mouthpiece by Courtney Love, began as a small company, propelled by a young man with a big vision.

little idea of Net etiquette acquaint themselves with the system. It's on user-friendliness. however. where America Online and CompuServe have scored. (There are other service providers. but these are the Big Two.) While CompuServe covers both the business and home markets. America Online has gone for leisure users. with the emphasis on entertainment and hobbies. Its big selling point is its ‘chat rooms‘ which allow subscribers to talk to each other via keyboard and computer in a form of communication which has been likened to the CB radio of the 90s.

In the US. America Online has deliberately fostered the idea ofa whacky. non-technical service by running deliberately goofy ads during Roseanne which are in contrast to the usual cosy 'family gathered round the CD-ROM‘ image of home computing. In the UK it wants to be seen as household brand like The Gap or lkea. a lifestyle accessory.

Let the online battle commence.


Travelling gallery Artists Nina Pope and Karen J. Guthrie are about to hit the road. Retracing the steps of l8th century travellers Boswell and Johnson. Pope and Guthrie are heading north to the Western Isles in the company of their lap-top computers. The itinerant pair will make daily updates to their hypertext journal travelogue and make artworks via modems. They welcome contributions to their WWW site at Edinburgh '5‘ Cybert'a at 88 Hanover Street. 220 4403. is acting as a venue where access to the Web site and e-mail are on offer at a reduced rate.

Bookish type The literary mag market looks set for a swift kick up the flycover this month as new Edinburgh-based title. The Source hits the streets. Editors Andrew Kelly and Corene Lemaitre aim to combat the elitist image of lit mags with a bi- monthly post-Welsh wedge of ‘outstanding new fiction. joumalism and art'. The first issue’s cover story is an interview with A Dry White Season author. Andre Brink.

The Source (Source Publishing), £2.99. Contact them on 0131 556 8673.

Online for drugs Edinburgh-based drugs information unit Crew 2000 has launched a site on World Wide Web in a move to back up its existing campaign to provide accurate and credible information about drugs and related issues. Spearheading the initiative is the publication this week of the latest survey on drug use among young pe0ple in Scotland. Conducted in Glasgow in June 1995 with a sample group of 738 pe0ple, Crew 2000‘s survey finds that 69% had used drugs in the last six months. Further details of the survey, plus Crew 2000‘s Safer Dancing Guidelines and links to other Internet drug resources can be found at: http://wth electricfrog/crew2000

Scottish movies, movies, movies Scottish Television Enterprises the production subsidiary of Scottish Television have struck movie gold in a $10 million deal with Hallmark Entertainment of America. The deal said to be the largest ever in Scotland is for the production of six 90~minute films aimed at the family market with scripts including Nina Bawden’s The ll’itch's Daughter and Enid Blyton’s Adventurous Four in the pipeline. All six will be shot on location in Scotland and will be ready for transmission in the US and other international markets by the end of 1996.

Champagne Supomattle Lots of silly typeface and a scoop cover story detailing ‘that’ legendary bevy session between Blur’s Damon Albam and Irvine Welsh are the chief ingredients of the new music mag with “T ' *“ attitude Blair Blah Blah. US publishers Raygun have installed a bevvy of British journalists to launch their first UK title, including erstwhile List writer Craig McLean as managing editor. We ' _ strongly _ I ' advise you read this mag wearing .shadeszrlssuao '- of Blah Blah BIa'h'(Rbygu'n) £2.50 . « newsagenm; _ i V V'- ' .