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CompuServe ready for the Web

The company outlines its Web-based service with features that include tiers of free and for-pay information.

CompuServe (CSRV) outlined details of its long-awaited Web-based service today, with features that include free and for-pay information, research, and database searches, electronic commerce, and discussion groups, the company said.

As previously reported, CompuServe plans to begin offering the Web-based service by year's end while keeping its proprietary service intact. Today, the company outlined its strategy for the service; business and transaction partners will be announced later.

Company spokesman Steve Conway said the service will be geared toward business and professional users, just like CompuServe's proprietary service, and not the mass market.

The company also plans to organize its content around interactive "communities" rather than "channels," as some other Web-based online services have done. CompuServe's forums are a popular feature with its proprietary service. The service may be offered by ISPs to their subscribers, Conway added.

Conway contended that the service (code-named CSI97) does not signal CompuServe's migration to the Web. Rather, he said it is an opportunity to reach the estimated 36 percent of Web users who are business professionals--the same group the company is trying to reach with its proprietary service.

Competition is stiff, however, largely from Internet directories such as Yahoo and Excite that continue to branch beyond their search engine models to make their services more like America Online.