My Mall will feature online promotions, major retail stores, and a customizable user interface that is pending patent approval.
"We've had a lot of member requests for this kind of thing," said Howard Lefkowitz, vice president of business development for EarthLink. "We have aggregated the best brand group in an easy-to-use interface."
Although EarthLink is not the first to try to grab eyeballs with online malls, it is unclear what these sites' chances for success really are. According to market research firm Jupiter Communications, online shopping is expected to generate $2.3 billion in 1997, rising to $7.3 billion by the year 2000. However, analysts don't necessarily expect online malls to contribute the lion's share of the money.
ISPs like EarthLink and online services like AOL do stand a better chance of competing, however, because they already have traffic flowing into their site, unlike a standalone mall like IBM's World Avenue, which has been shuttered.
My Mall's customization feature will allow EarthLink members to name their site and eventually pick the stores they want in their mall, according to Lefkowitz.
"We're really putting all these folks in the real estate development business," he joked.
My Mall will also offer consumers EarthLink-only discounts, promotions, and special online events like videoconferencing with Santa at Christmas and chats with authors.
Retail stores such as 1-800-Flowers, American Greetings, BarnesandNoble.com, Disney Store Online, FAO Schwarz, Godiva Chocolatier, iPrint, Music Boulevard, NetGrocer, Software Super Store, and Travelocity have already signed up.