Yahoo… On the Minitel?

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My friend Mike “do you fucking believe this?” Gold sent me this article from The Standard: A Mini Yahoo

Believe it! Yahoo! has enough business acumen to recognize the opportunity to port some of its content to Minitel. I used it in the early 90s, and even met a girl I spent 6 years with – but I swear it was not through Minitel Rose, the infamous sex chat services! Almost a decade later the Minitel is now a perfect symbol of The French national ability to proudly relish in our antiqued customs.

Claiming that the Minitel increased online literacy is a joke. It was/is mostly used for white/yellow pages, games, classifieds and chat. Some commerce did happen on the Minitel (travel reservation mainly) but that didn’t translate into significant numbers on the web. Our biggest etailers – Fnac, Rueducommerce, Alapage, … – are painstakingly reaching $10-20MM in yearly revenues. The fact that so many French sites suck hard doesn’t really help getting people on the web either, and Frenchmen often don’t speak English so they’re left out of the web at large.

What The Standard is portraying as a “solid business model”, I would label “milk the cash cow till it drops dry.” Millions of terminals were subsidized (read: cost eventually supported by taxpayers) and many services are grossly overpriced. Just imagine paying $1.2 a minute – at today’s exchange rate – to get a tenth of what you’ll get for free from Hoover’s. Most sites, such as those that give corporate information or host chat features, still cost around 15 cents a minute. How refreshing and inspiring indeed.

Another flaw in this article is what it’s looking at to tell the web and Minitel apart. Charts, photos and cool graphics are the “mainstays of the web”? And here I thought the web’s strengths were its versatility, simplicity, and openness, not fancy visuals.

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