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Netscape offers free email

Netscape Communications expands usage of its In-Box Direct news delivery service by offering free emailboxes. But there are some strings attached.

Netscape Communications (NSCP) today moved to expand usage of its In-Box Direct news delivery service by offering free emailboxes that will be administered by a handful of Internet service providers.

But, like most free offers, this one comes with some strings attached.

While Netscape will provide users with free trial subscriptions to as many as 50 online publications, a quick perusal of the Mountain View, California-based company's Web site reveals that free service provided by Netscape's ISP partners will in most cases expire after 60 days.

The Internet MailBox Company, which also offers fax, pager, and U.S. postal service connections to the In-Box, said it will wave its basic service fee of $6 a month for the first two months, but then users will have to pay for service.

iName, a company that lets users customize their email addresses, will let In-Box Direct users sign up for free, but people who choose a personalized address will pay $14.95 a year after the first 60 days. Those who merely select from a list of the company's "classic" addresses, though, will have ongoing free service, according to information on the site.

GeoCities, a provider that runs 30 theme-based electronic communities, will give free mailboxes and home pages to each user who maintains an active home page. Users must build their online "homesteads" within 14 days of signing up or lose their gratis status, the company warns.

Since In-Box Direct starts users off with free trial subscriptions, users will eventually be faced with subscription fees for at least some of the news, sports, financial, and other information provided by participating online publishers, according to Netscape.

Netscape said it has signed up at least one other ISP to provide the service and is targeting both business and home users for the service. The company said it has already signed up some 5 million subscribers to the service.

Sign-up information is available at the Netscape site. Users must have Netscape Navigator or Communicator, a POP3 mail account, and provide the company with some personal information and contact information.