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Freeserve is underwriting the cost of a new women-focused portal designed to compete with the likes of Handbag.com and Charlottestreet.com. Although the people behind iCircle.com think it will draw readers from all over the Web, its first job will be to cash in on the 700,000 or so women who already use Freeserve to access the Net. Health, babies and relationships are among the five sections catering for what Britain's biggest ISP maintains is a growing female Net audience. But those behind the new service deny it is being patronising [should that be 'matronising'? - Ed] to women. "Research shows that women use the Web differently from men, most typically using it to rapidly find solutions to otherwise time-consuming problems," said Sarah Carpenter, VP strategy at Freeserve. The service will generate income through advertising and e-commerce sales. ®

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