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AT&T WorldNet adds community

The ISP arm of the world's largest telecom company tries to even the score among portal sites vying to create community.

AT&T WorldNet today tried to even the score among portal sites vying to create community.

The Internet service provider arm of the world's largest telecommunications company has launched Community Port, a service that allows users to create their own Web pages and list them in a choice of 45 channels, called "Ports of Interest."

ATT WorldNet joins a spate of Internet companies that have tried to gain a strategic advantage by turning to community builders--services that host user-created Web sites supporting pictures, chat rooms, links, and message boards--to beef up their portal offerings. For some companies, such as GeoCities, community building forms the foundation of their service, while other Internet portals--such as Yahoo, Excite, AOL.com, MSN.com, and Lycos, have added community to their offerings in hopes of attracting a wider audience.

While Internet portals are among the most popular sites on the Web, competition among them is fierce, and they must work constantly to retain millions of users visiting their sites each day. Thus far, the community gamble seems to have paid off for portals such as Lycos, which acquired home page communities Tripod and Angelfire earlier this year. Indeed, Lycos vaulted past competitor Excite in audience reach after its acquired those two services, as well as Wired Digital and WhoWhere, according to Jupiter Communications.

Yahoo and Excite, for their part, have made their own bids to bolster their offerings, releasing rival "community builders" within days of each other this summer. The additions give users of the sites the ability to create and categorize their own communities, and, in return, the portals gain the opportunity to sell targeted advertising to communities targeted at specific audiences and to collect demographic data about people using the community building services.

Aside from creating home pages, WorldNet Community Port users can access a number of interactive tools, such as Web calendars, address books, guest books, polling, chat rooms, and message boards, among other features.