AOL extends international reach

America Online is reaching out to international customers in an attempt to attract members from around the world.

America Online is reaching out to international customers in an attempt to attract members from around the world by adding new services for foreign language speakers and non-US residents.

The company has introduced new services in the International Channel area of its online service. The service, which was launched in June, is one of several AOL has begun offering since the beginning of 1996 when officials decided to make the addition of international customers a priority.

Users of the International Channel can get access to content from all of the international versions of AOL's online service, including AOL United Kingdom and AOL Germany. The International Channel also plays host to original content developed especially for members interested in meeting people from different countries or learning about new cultures, according to the company.

Some of the new services available include: a site called "Royalty" which chronicles the lives of the British royal family; information for the international business traveler sponsored by American Express; NTN International Trivia, a game based on facts about countries around the world; and links to over 1000 Web sites of international interest.

This December, AOL will launch a currency information section sponsored by Currency Data & Intelligence which will offer exchange and investment information for 184 countries. Also to come is a section called Global Gourmet which will feature regional recipes, restaurant reviews and cooking chat rooms.

This year, AOL introduced local services in the UK, Germany and France in partnership with Bertelsmann, as well as AOL Canada. Early next year, a Japanese service will be launched as a joint venture with Mitsui and Nikkei. The company also launched connection services through its Globalnet in 87 countries and 237 cities.

Competitor CompuServe has led the pack in attracting international members, with over 2 million of its 5 million subscribers signing on from a country other than the US. While AOL and Prodigy have traditionally focused on US members, both online services are now realising the importance of garnering international subscribers.

When Prodigy launched its new Internet service last week, chairman Greg Carr called it "the foundation for international expansion" and announced services in Mexico and Africa. In early 1996 AOL launched AOLWorld, a service with foreign language chats and bulletin boards, and began offering access numbers in 50 countries.

AOL's goal is to build a community of international diversity, according to Eileen Bramlet, general manager for the International Channel.

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