ISP makes Internet easier

April 03, 2000|By James Coates | James Coates,Chicago Tribune

With 3 million customers, EarthLink is a distant second to 21 million-subscriber America Online. Now EarthLink, with its 5.0 CD-ROM, is following AOL's model by offering software to make getting online and using the Internet easy.

And while EarthLink still isn't as easy for beginners to load and use as AOL, it definitely is the second-easiest way many people are likely to find.

Disgruntled AOL users fed up with frequent hang-ups and sluggish service should give EarthLink a try, because its connections come through Sprint's UUNET backbone, a pipeline that often is less congested than AOL's.

EarthLink 5.0 is built around the Microsoft Internet Explorer but alters the browser's display with big, blocky icons that make it much easier for newcomers to move from e-mail to the Web to chatrooms and online favorites than is the case with the unaltered Explorer.

A narrow sidecar window runs to the right of the main browser display and features scrolling stock quotes, news headlines and incoming e-mail messages while a user works in the main screen.

EarthLink tries to match America Online's superb content by offering a splendid collection of favorite Web sites.

Close, but AOL remains far richer.

As does AOL, EarthLink 5.0 keeps its RealPlayer and Microsoft Media Player plug-ins automatically updated.

The 6-megabyte personal Web space EarthLink offers is three times bigger than AOL's, and EarthLink's Click-n-Build Web page creation software is superb.

EarthLink's software runs on Windows 95/98. The service costs $19.95. Information: 800-890-6356 or www.earthlink.net.

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