CompuServe embraces the Web

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Like rival Prodigy Services Co., online company CompuServe, Columbus, Ohio, will cease further investments in proprietary technology to transition its flagship brands WOW!, CompuServe Information Services, and Sprynet to a Web-based platform.

Executives described long-range plans on Tuesday to enable the brands with open standards via an ongoing internal project code-named "Red Dog." Consumers will see the first application of open standards technology in CompuServe 3.0, a release available this summer which will give users extensive customization capabilities.

Both Denny Matteucci, president-consumer online services, and Bob Massey, CompuServe's CEO, emphasized that the announcement was not the end of CompuServe Information Service as an online brand or the porting of CompuServe to the Internet. Rather, the announcement is a technology initiative involving open standards that would serve customer demand for them and reduce the time to market required for introduction of new CompuServe products or information providers' brands.

They also said that the company would not abandon its philosophy of market segmentation, and that the three major consumer products it offers - CompuServe, Sprynet, and WOW! - would continue to serve their audiences. Both Mr. Matteucci and Mr. Massey suggested users could expect more customizable experiences with CompuServe 3.0.

CompuServe recently completed a deal with Time Warner's Pathfinder and Open Market, Cambridge, Mass. In the deal the three partners launched Pathfinder Personal Edition, a customizable product for Pathfinder searchers that will give CompuServe customers free access to a fee-based Pathfinder edition launching this summer.

"Information providers will be able to put up content one time and develop new launching pads [or interfaces] for it," said Mr. Matteucci. They'll also "access a market far larger than the [more than] four million CompuServe reaches."

No price changes are planned at this point, according to Mr. Matteucci. Open standards capability will be addressed in forthcoming branding campaigns.

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