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MSN UK user figures plummet

Membership believed to be down 20 per cent

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MSN has confirmed that its membership in the UK has fallen to 125,000 but denies that the alleged 20 per cent drop is as steep as earlier reports made out. Whether it is or not is neither here nor there. The important thing for Net watchers -- and MSN -- is that their membership has dipped and the worry is that it could be the start of a downward spiral for the once popular online service provider. MSN refused to comment further on the story or suggestions that it may have to offer a rival subscription-free service to stay in business even though much of MSN's decline is being blamed on the runaway success of subscription-free services such as Freeserve. A spokeswoman for AOL UK remained bullish about the impact of Freeserve. She said that instead of falling, its membership had increased since the introduction of Freeserve last autumn and that its service was attracting 50,000 new members a month. Similarly, CompuServe UK claimed its membership base has remained unchanged at 400,000 despite the introduction of subscription-free ISPs. Which makes MSN's decline even more worrying especially since it is supported, in part, by figures published by Net analysts Inteco which found that people who bought new PCs were twice as likely to chose a subscription-free ISP compared to one which charged for its service. According to Inteco, Freeserve (with a 36 per cent share) has displaced AOL, (19 per cent) as the most popular route to the Net among recent PC buyers. AOL previously held the top spot for all five previous waves of research. ®

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