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Freecall sets sight on virtual communities

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A company claiming to offer toll-free access to the Internet has registered almost 100,000 people in just 14 days. The head of Freecall-UK, Richard Jay, told The Register that he hopes to build an online community similar to Tripod or Geocities. What makes it different, he said, is that communities can earn credits that can be redeemed for toll-free access to the Net. He said he intends to generate revenue by selling web and advertising space and by running direct e-mail campaigns to its members, although he insisted that people could block spam at anytime. "Our ultimate object is to create a virtual community where people can go to source information, shop, or just 'hang out' in virtual cafes and listen to music, watch videos or pop into one of the various video chat rooms," said Jay. "We want to create virtual communities up and down the country—and even internationally—who will to a large extent manage the content of their own 'communities' and the businesses which trade there," he said. The service will be launched on Wednesday when a new site is due to be launched at Freecall-UK. Jay gave assurances to the Net community that he would not tolerate anyone spamming other Net users about the service, something that has riled many people and has become a focal talking point in several newsgroups. "Anyone caught spamming will be removed from Freecall-UK and banned for life," he said. Last week The Register reported that Jay and his family had been threatened and that the matter was now in the hands of his solicitor. ®

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