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AOL tailors service to small businesses

The online titan launches a variation on its flagship Internet service with more links to business-related services and content.

America Online on Monday launched a version of its flagship Internet service geared toward small businesses.

The AOL for Small Business is essentially a version of AOL with more links to business-related services and content. AOL subscribers who request it will get a new welcome screen that offers stock quotes and links to services such as domain name registration by VeriSign, stock quotes and a small-business resource page.

The new screen also links to business-related content provided by AOL Time Warner publications, including Fortune Small Business, CNN Money and Business 2.0.

Internet giants including Microsoft and Yahoo also have launched their own services for small businesses. These companies have viewed the small business market as a way to augment advertising revenue by offering additional services such as Web site hosting, interactive marketing, domain name registration and the ability to build e-commerce storefronts.

AOL plans to release a second phase of the small business product with premium services. The company would not offer a timeframe for the release, saying that it first plans to create an appealing product.

"We want to give them a more relevant experience and to increase satisfaction with service," said Chris Croll, vice president and general manager for AOL for Small Business.

This is not the first time that AOL has tried to lure small businesses. The company developed versions of to appeal to business users, most recently with the launch of Netbusiness two years ago.

Croll said the company will continue operating Netbusiness but did not say how it would fit in with AOL's service.