AltaVista decided last week to offer free dial-up internet access program that offers members email and unlimited Internet access. AltaVista joins other Internet Service Providers (ISP) like NetZero, Inc., Surfree.com, and Tritium Networks in the free ISP market.
What's the catch? The free service requires users to watch a constant stream of ads while online. AltaVista says the ad window "takes up less than five percent of a user's desktop and can be positioned anywhere on the screen at the user's discretion." The free service requires surfers to use a personalized MyAltaVista page as their permanent home page, too.
The company also is introducing a MicroPortal service. This service remains open as a separate desktop window and displays links to AltaVista services. As a promotion for this service, the company is giving away $5 million worth of gift certificates redeemable at its Shopping.com www.shopping.com e-commerce site. Users earn more chances to win, the longer they keep their window open.
The fact that other free sites haven't been an overnight success suggests that consumers are willing to pay to keep their personal data confidential. AltaVista is about to find out if they have the right "free" model. To check it out for yourself, click here http://microav.com/.