CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Service providers get you down the Internet Highway
01/01/96

by Cathi Schuler


If you're an America Online user and wonder why you've recently received free software for something called GNN, it's not a coincidence. GNN, Global Network Navigator, is a full-service Internet provider owned by America Online. GNN debuted October 30, 1995 and is America Online's entree into the full-service Internet marketplace.

The competition is fierce in the ISP (Internet Service Provider) emporium with all providers hawking various versions of the same basic package: World Wide Web browser, E-Mail, Usenet newsgroups, FTP and Web publishing. In simpler terms, to drive down the freeway you need a vehicle such as a car or truck. There are thousands of different makes and models, but they all have certain, necessary features in common -- wheels, steering mechanism, engine, seats, and various other optional amenities. To drive down the Internet highway, you need also need a vehicle: an ISP. America Online is hoping you'll pick GNN.

Global Network Navigator, first launched in 1993 by O'Reilly & Associates of Sebastopol, was one of the first commercial venues on the World Wide Web. O'Reilly & Associates, publishers of computer and travel books, sold GNN to America Online last June for $11 million. GNN features the very popular "Whole Internet Catalog", a reviewed directory of resources on the Internet organized by subject area. This index is very in depth and similar to the indexing efforts of fromYahoo. Like America Online, GNN has partnered with various content providers to offer information and entertainment services to its web visitors.

It is this ease of navigation and organization of Internet content, coupled with the traditional e-mail and newsgroup services, that GNN is hoping will attract new subscribers. Additionally, GNN recognizes the importance of web page publishing and provides the tools for users to create their own home pages. Subscribers are allotted 20MB of space on the GNN web server at no extra charge.

Unlike America Online which offers Internet access in addition to its other featured services, GNN is strictly an Internet product. AOL President and CEO Steve Case sees plenty of room for both brands of service: "People who are sophisticated users of the Internet and are seeking a full-featured Internet-only offering will likely opt for our new GNN brand. People who want a simple and affordable package that provides them with access to the widest possible range of content --included but not limited to Internet content -- are likely to continue to opt for our flagship AOL brand".

Because GNN is an "Internet-only offering" there is no moderation of content, as there is in America Online. This may be good news to many users, but parents concerned with the totally uncensored nature of the Internet may prefer that their kids surf the Net in the tamer waters of AOL.

Though Steve Case hopes you sign up, you don't need a GNN account to avail yourself of the many features this service offers. Anyone with a Web browser can point to GNN and check out the "Whole Internet Catalog", GNN News, and Match.com (an online matchmaking service!!), among others.

For me, setting up this software was not "just an easy, single click away", as advertised. After two very polite, prompt tech support calls and renaming system files, I eventually got the provided software to load. When I finally logged on, I waited another 35 minutes while additional software loaded. Just like AOL...forever downloading new art!!

Once in, I found the GNN web browser perfectly acceptable as was the mail utility. I didn't find anything extraordinary, however that would cause me to abandon Netscape and my local ISP. Especially since Netscape offers a 32-bit version of its software and GNN only has a 16-bit version available at this time.

You can check it out for yourself. GNN is offering the first month of service free with unlimited usage. Thereafter, the service costs $14.95 and includes 20 hours of connection time. Each additional hour of usage is $1.95.

As the big Internet Service Providers continue to infiltrate our area, you can expect more free software in the mail and enticements to sign on with one ISP or another. Since they all offer the wheels, steering mechanism, engine and seats required for Internet travel, it's a personal decision. All things being equal, I prefer the local model.

Order Free Software Global Network Navigator 1-800-819-6112 or download from GNN

Feedback? E-Mail cschuler@ceeprompt.com

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