Internet

USWeb--the Kinko's of Web publishing?

USWeb unveiled today in San Francisco its plan to build a nationwide franchise network of Web development shops that it hopes will do for Web site development what Kinkos did for desktop publishing.

USWeb today unveiled its plan to build a nationwide franchise network of Web development shops that it hopes will do for Web site development what Kinkos did for desktop publishing.

At a press conference in San Francisco, USWeb said it will equip each independently owned franchise in the USWeb Affiliate Network with the tools, know-how, and network access to provide customers with hosting and management of their sites, as well as design consulting and development training. Under this concept, customers will be able to walk in with an idea and walk out with a fully loaded Web site.

The franchises will be offered to Web design shops, VARs, consultants, and access providers that will be able to leverage USWeb's training, back-end networking technology, and corporate marketing, research, and development. In return, they will give the corporate office a seven percent cut of revenues.

There's also a hefty one-time fee for USWeb affiliates. Although the first ten affiliates can sign on for free, the eleventh to 50th affiliates will pay $25,000 and, after that, they pay $50,000.

Executive Vice President and CTO Sheldon Laube said the idea for USWeb was inspired by the inferior customer service now provided by most Internet service providers (ISPs). "It's like the ISPs are in a contest with the cable companies to see who can provide less customer service," he said.

The company is a joint venture of Ziff-Davis Publishing and Softbank but is being headed largely by former Novell executives, including: Laube, former CTO at Novell; Joe Firmage, former vice president of strategic planning for Novell's NetWare Systems Group and now USWeb president and CEO; and Toby Corey, former vice president of NetWare marketing and now executive VP of marketing for USWeb.

The company will supply affiliates with ready-made Web site templates and training to speed development, but it hopes to license and then brand innovative technologies from affiliates, Laube said.

"Egg McMuffins weren't invented centrally," he said. "They were created by an affiliate."