Verizon Communications Inc. has tapped InfoSpace Inc. to create broadband and dial-up platforms and applications for its Verizon Online Internet service.
Applications service provider InfoSpace will work with content aggregators and Verizon to create links between Verizon's DSL and narrowband home pages and specific content and applications. The narrowband "portal" debuts today, Sept. 17.
The broadband DSL portal is slated for a late October launch. It's akin to the home page seen by users of the Excite@Home Corp. or Road Runner cable-modem services.
"We recognized the need to create a much more coherent Internet experience with users," said Verizon Online applications development group director Mark Dillon.
For example, InfoSpace will allow Verizon subscribers to use a single screen name and password throughout the portal. In the past, Verizon DSL users would log on to the service, then have to log on separately to NBCi, which provided Verizon with content prior to the InfoSpace deal.
That ubiquity of experience across platforms is a key strategy for InfoSpace, said chairman and CEO Naveen Jain. "As they become a global company, the same customers could be anywhere and take advantage of same personalization," he said.
That approach is similar to America Online Inc.'s AOL Anywhere strategy, through which the company seeks to provider AOL users with similar experiences on TVs and wireless devices.
The InfoSpace-produced Verizon destination pages should include automatically updated Flash and HyperText Markup Language (HTML) information, as well streaming tickers that feature personalized headline news, stock quotes and sports scores.
In the media center section, InfoSpace will assemble updated streaming video and audio clips in the news, sports, entertainment, finance and reference categories.
An entertainment channel will feature movie trailers and clips, music downloads and Internet radio stations. A separate finance channel will offer users access to message boards, personalized portfolio tracker information and other investment tools.
InfoSpace also will create separate news, sports, weather and shopping channels, and extensive multimedia search capabilities.
"We're trying to provide organized, contextualized net access" while retaining personalized services for users, Dillon said. "With InfoSpace, we'll get a greater selection of media sources."
"Because the Internet has been around five to six years, people tend to think of it as rather mature," Dillon said, but broadband remains a nascent business. As Verizon and others race to increase broadband penetration, applications will develop, he said.
"We will find apps that are unique to broadband," he said. "We will position ourselves with core capabilities of DSL service so we can address those customers inside the home as individuals."
For example, there are now homes in which several people are using a DSL connection simultaneously, he said.
"That's why you need a Bloomberg [L.P.] channel and a gaming channel," he said. Home networking also will become more important, because more than one person in the home wants to utilize the broadband connection at the same time.
Although InfoSpace is charged with gathering much of the content, Verizon will keep a section of the home page for itself. Dubbed DSL Live, Dillon said it's "a platform to launch other or niche relationships with streaming and entertainment providers." Verizon is looking at music and gaming services on DSL Live, he added.
Verizon counts more than 800,000 DSL subscribers from the more than 1 million total Verizon Online users. It's marketing DSL by giving away PC cameras as a means to build penetration. That links directly to Verizon's push for consumers to use the voice IP network to send video messages, a feature than is enabled by broadband, Dillon said.
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