RealTime IT News

Prodigy to Pull Plug on Classic Service

Prodigy Communications Corp., one of the nation's first online services, plans to discontinue its Prodigy Classic service, citing prohibitive Y2K costs.

In an e-mail sent to Classic members Friday, Prodigy CEO Samer Salameh said the 12-year old service, which launched nationally in 1988, was "built using proprietary technologies that predate current Internet standards. Due to the limitations of these technologies, we are unable to make them Y2K (year 2000) compliant."

Prodigy Classic VP and GM Eva Barham told members in an e-mail the problems are complicated by the fact Prodigy doesn't have sole ownership of the code behind the Prodigy Classic service.

"The painful but realistic conclusion is that the investment required to rewrite/replace the remaining non-compliant components cannot be justified with any believable financial outlooks for Classic," Barham said.

Classic members most affected are the users of the service's popular bulletin boards. Many have expressed doubt in posts that the Y2K issue is what's really behind the decision to shut down the money-losing service.

White Plains, N.Y.-based Prodigy is advising members that the Classic version will be available until October, 1999 and suggests that members migrate to Prodigy Internet service. The company is scrambling on how to incorporate Classic's bulletin boards into the Web version.

"At this point, the best we can hope to do is to better understand how to make PI (Prodigy Internet) a more attractive, friendly and useful service for our Classic members. Bulletin Board and investment portfolio features are top of the list under investigation and we've done a good deal of research to get a better sense of other members' needs and wants," Barham said.

Prodigy is trying to entice Classic members to PI with an offer of $9.95 per month for the first three months of membership, plus unlimited access to Prodigy Classic (while it lasts) for free. Classic members are also offered five additional e-mailboxes on PI at no extra cost, which the company said is valued at $20.

Prodigy did not return calls seeking comment.