Prodigy to Pull Plug on Classic Service

Prodigy Communications
, 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

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.

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