For the firms--GTE, Yahoo, AltaVista, and America Online--the idea is to direct traffic and advertising revenue directly to their services. The goal is to make it easy for users to get on to and then navigate the Net by providing buttons that link to the services.
Users can reconfigure the buttons to "customize" them. But the companies are hoping that instead, users will stick with the "default" buttons that lead to their sites.
One result of such arrangements is that consumers may end up with fewer choices, critics charge. But companies increasingly are paying each other millions of dollars for prominent placement.
Compaq customers will be offered Internet access through GTE and will be given the option of 50 free hours of Net access. Compaq is also offering a $100 mail-in rebate on most Presario desktop computers when users sign up for the trial. After the free trial, users will have to pay $19.95 per month for access ($16.95 for GTE long distance customers).
Customers also will be supplied with AOL software, which they can use instead of GTE for Net access, or in addition to GTE as strictly an online service. AOL costs $19.95 per month for full service including Net access and $9.95 for the service without Net access.
Once the user gets on to the Net, he or she can choose from a number of buttons that link directly to various Web sites and services.
The "Instant Email" button links to Microsoft's Outlook Express.
The "Instant Internet" button links to "My Yahoo," the portal giant's personalized page.
An "Instant Search" button will give users access to AltaVista's search site; and the "Secure E-Commerce" button will link users to a variety of online vendors such as Amazon.com, Music Boulevard, Travelocity, 1-800-FLOWERS, the Disney Store Online, and, of course, the Compaq Online store.