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Computing
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Surfing Silicon Valley: Take my software, please

By CNN San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

E-mail: glefevre@CNN.com

May 15, 1998
Web posted at: 12:47 PM EDT (1247 GMT)

noneKen Abbott says he's never had so many happy customers and a more promising revenue stream as when he began giving away his product. His "AtChat" was a good application for private chats on the Internet. But it never caught on the way he wanted.

He decided it was time to upgrade -- not only the software, but also his market share. So he overhauled the features, changed the name to "AbbottChat" and reduced the price 100%.

Now he's signing on about a thousand new customers a day.

How does Abbott make this pay? Commercials. Yup, tiny ads on the chat screen. I winced when I first heard him describe it, but softened to the idea when I was sent some sample screen shots and learned the program was free. We Websurfers will put up with a lot when we don't have to pay.

You probably already know Abbott for his company's "CanOpener" software that really does pry open reluctant files, or for his "Scorpio," the neatest little snappy word processor in a long while. Unlike "AbbotChat," they still cost money.

So much is out there for free on the Web, Internet users are becoming more and more reluctant to pay. Be it software, services or ISP's, it's getting harder and harder to get Web rats to pony up.

Microsoft and Apple learned that when they threw in their respective towels on their MS and E-World services. Microsoft applied the lesson when it attempted to vanquish Netscape in the browser wars by giving away its browser, "Internet Explorer." Netscape came back with the astonishing move of giving away not only the software, but the basic code it's written with.

Internet Service Providers have spent the last year and a half struggling to keep revenues up while madly building more systems to handle more customers, most of whom are extremely reluctant to part with any more cash for their monthly hookups.

Some of the best little utilities are freeware or shareware (be sure to pay your share!) easily downloaded off the Internet. Be sure to virus check.

Get ready for a crash or two. But that's OK.

We Websurfers will put up with a lot when we don't have to pay.

Surf on....

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