Netscape buys Web marketing company

Race on with Microsoft to buy more portal users

Netscape has bought small business-oriented Web marketing company AtWeb for $95 million in stock less than a week after Microsoft acquired its own Web promotional operation, LinkExchange. The Netscape deal will see AtWeb's services integrated into the browser Satan's Netcenter portal -- AtWeb's !Register-It! search engine registration service will be integrated into Netcenter's Smart Browsing Netscape Search and Netscape Directory areas. The service allows small, Web-based businesses to get their sites registered with the key Net search engines. Netscape will also be taking on AtWeb's Web Site Post Office, which helps businesses set up customer-targetting mailing lists, and Web Site Garage, which provides site maintenance and analysis tools. "Netscape's acquisition of AtWeb further expands Netcenter into a network that links individuals and businesses around the world," said Netcenter executive VP and general manager, Mike Homer. "With the integration of AtWeb technology and services, Netcenter will be able to further empower small businesses and independent Web publishers with the tools they need to create the most effective Web presence possible." Users will also be integrated: registered AtWeb users, all 600,000 of them, will become registered Netcenter users. That number suggests Netscape is as interested in AtWeb's user base as its technology -- after all, mailing lists and registration engines shouldn't be beyond Netscape's resources to develop for itself. Bums on seats are, after all, what portals are all about, which is why Microsoft's $250 million purchase of LinkExchange seems to have been primarily an acquisition of a user base rather than a technology-buying exercise. Both MSN.com and Netcenter have a lot of catching-up to do to claim they offer comparable numbers of users as the likes of Excite and Yahoo! do. Buying companies with large user bases -- and getting some useful e-commerce contacts and services into the bargain -- is clearly how they aim to do it. ®

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