RealTime IT News

AOL France Opens Portal to Non-Subscribers

AOL.fr said it will abandon its proprietary platform in order to become a major French portal site in the next two years.

AOL Compuserve France chief executive officer Stéphane Treppoz said that new site AOL.fr is committed to making AOL available anywhere on all emerging interactive platforms.

The site will provide all its free service users with almost the same features which the AOL community enjoys: AOL Instant Messenger, a search engine powered by Inktomi, and content provided by 23 partners including all the sites hosted by the Vivendi group.

The company aims to hit 50 million pageviews per month in the next year, with the goal of netting $3.5 million in advertising on its site. To get to this stage, an advertising campaign projected to cost about $1.5 million will be promoted not only online but also on the radio and in the press.

"With our 450,000 subscribers which represent 20 percent of the market, there is still 80 percent that AOL France does not control," said Stéphane Treppoz. "Now that AOL.fr can be accessed by anybody who has a connection to the Internet, we expect to get more [of an] audience."

AOL Compuserve France's CEO knows he has two big competitors -- namely France Télécom and Yahoo! -- but he said he was willing to change the means in order to meet the end goal.

"When AOL was launched, it had no other choice than to develop a proprietary platform. That's because there was no reliable Web infrastructure able to provide attractive content," says Stéphane Treppoz. "Today, it is very different. [In] two years, there won't be anything proprietary on AOL."

While Treppoz refused to comment on new shareholders, with 55 percent of AOL.fr owned by Cegetel/Canal + and 45 percent by AOL Inc and Bertelsmann, he did say that he expects AOL Europe to enter the stock market next year.