Papers got wrong end of the stick, says AOL

You could have someone’s eye out with that, we say

AOL and CompuServe are not about to abolish their subscription-based services. Contrary to a rash of stories yesterday, AOL UK and its sidekick CompuServe have no intentions to give up precious revenue from their subscription-based services. A source close to AOL UK explained that the stories were misleading and that someone simply got the wrong end of the stick. Which is fine, except that AOL UK has been on a hiding to nothing ever since the subscription-based phenomenon took off. With unerring regularity, every time another subscription-free service is launched AOL gets asked when it will follow suit. Instead of flat denials, in recent times AOL has tended to rule nothing in -- or nothing out. The result is a pea soup of confusion that helped contribute to yesterday's screaming "AOL goes free" headlines. Of course, while people try to feel their way through the smog there is nothing stopping AOL from launching a new branded service -- or services -- to compete in the subscription-free marketplace. If AOL is "going free", then The Register reckons it would involve the launch of another service -- not an alteration to its existing ones. And if that's the case such a service may just provide Net access with a limited range of content. Net users who need the comfort blanket of AOL's extended content can always dip into their pockets and pay a little extra. After all, that's been AOL's argument for as long as anyone can remember. Either way, AOL is expected to make a decision within the next three or four weeks. ®

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