RealTime IT News

AOL Willing to Pay Bounties for New Users

The Washington Post is reporting that America Online is willing to pay bounties of up to $35 per new subscriber to computer makers who will give AOL prominence over Microsoft Corp. on their desktops. On July 11, Microsoft, which plans to release a new version of the Windows operating system this fall, agreed to let computer makers have more freedom on what icons they choose to put on their startup screens.

Quoting an internal memo that was written on the same day that Microsoft made its concession to computer manufacturers, the Post said the Dulles, Va.-based AOL, the wholly-owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner , hopes to convince computer makers to offer new computer buyers a free 90-day trial version of AOL's online service. The memo also said AOL wants computer makers to "remove MSN as the default ISP (Internet service provider)." For each new subscriber gained through this promotion, AOL would pay the computer maker $35.

The Post quotes Microsoft spokesperson as saying, "AOL's actions are unprecedented and completely anti-consumer. AOL is paying to eliminate consumer choice, forcing people to select the most expensive service in the industry."

MSN is Microsoft's online service that, with 7 million subscribers, is the nation's number two ISP to AOL's 30 million customers. AOL's unlimited service costs $23.90 a month while MSN's comparable service is $21.95.

"If no one clicks on the (free promotion) icon, it will remain present for seven days," the memo says. "If a user clicks on the icon at least once within the first seven days, the icon will remain indefinitely."

According to the memo, if a consumer declines to sign up for the AOL service, the company plans to "remind the customer of the AOL offer through the use of screen 'Pop-ups' that will appear five times within the first month of activity (or until the user signs up for AOL, whichever comes first)."

Additionally, if a consumer "clicks on anything that requires Internet connectivity, and has not registered for an ISP, the AOL offer is presented as a pop-up."

The Post also quotes from another AOL internal memo that seeks to have computer makers include icons for its Netscape browser and instant messaging service on the Windows start menu.