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AOL limits free Netscape Radio listening

Daddy says one hour a day is enough
Sat May 01 2004, 11:20
A REPRESENTATIVE from AOL confirmed my earlier suspicion that the company is dropping Real Audio format for its free Netscape Radio service, and switching instead to Ultravox servers, developed by its Nullsoft subsidiary.

Spokeswoman Ann Burkart said from the 30th floor at AOL's NY office: "We are in fact using Ultravox on the back end and using Dolby streaming audio for the latest release of the Radio@Netscape player which just launched last month. This does require the player to enable Active-X."

Leaving aside the problem of losing linux and MacOS compatibility that I talked about in my original article: another question immediately became clear: "if Radio@Aol for AOL subscribers and the free Netscape Radio uses the same technology, what reason one has to pay for an AOL account to get streaming music?". In other words, if the free Netscape streaming service runs the same technology and streams music at the same quality, Radio@AOL loses its main selling point.

One of our readers answered that question for me: "After updating the Netscape Radio software to the latest version, they booted me off the system after only about an hour of listening". An error message apparently explains the booting of listeners and the daily limits now imposed: "We're sorry, you have exceeded the listening limit on radio@netscape for today. Please tune in again tomorrow!. Why am I being limited? Click here to find out. If you can't wait until tomorrow, and you're an AOL member, sign on and listen to radio@AOL for an unlimited time".

AOL has crippled the free Netscape Radio service and using it as a sales tool for their Radio@AOL unlimited service, and by extension, gaining more AOL subscribers. "If you're not an AOL member, join & get unlimited commercial free CD-quality radio@AOL. Try AOL for Broadband with up to 45 days free. Click here for details," concludes the booting message.

The Netscape Radio fact sheet blames the recording industry and the cost of the fees the company has to pay to the record labels in order to stream music: "In order to play music online, Radio@Netscape needs to pay fees to the recording industry and ultimately the artists who make the music you enjoy. By putting a daily limit on listening, we can continue to provide you with the best FREE online music experience, with limited commercial interruptions, while still keeping our costs in check".

The sales ploy is hardly hidden: "Unlimited listening is available to AOL members through our popular Radio@AOL service which offers the same great audio programming in addition to more exclusive content and convenient access to all of the other great features of AOL", the FAQ concludes.

For those interested in corporate archeology, AOL purchased the original radio streaming service "Spinner.com" in May 1999 for $400 million greenbacks, and merged it with Nullsoft, Inc. In 2002, it folded the Spinner.com service into the Netscape.com portal, starting Netscape Radio. If one hour a day of free streaming music is enough for you, find the service at http://radio.netscape.com. µ

 

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