Lycos launches mail, messaging and voice service bundle

Lycos, one of the major portal players in the 1990s, has stubbornly stuck around but is dwarfed by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. It is also split: Lycos in the US is owned by the South Korean company Daum Communications, which bought the subsidiary in 2004.

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Web portal Lycos is rolling out a bundle of services dubbed Jubii – including email, instant messaging, SMS messages, Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) calls plus photo, video and file sharing – across Europe.

Jubii was launched in the US in February and will start in Europe later this month.

Lycos, one of the major portal players in the 1990s, has stubbornly stuck around but is dwarfed by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. It is also split: Lycos in the US is owned by the South Korean company Daum Communications, which bought the subsidiary in 2004.

Lycos Europe cannot use its brand name in the US, so it has named the service Jubii, a Danish word for joy or fun. The name comes from a successful portal with the same name owned by Lycos Europe in Denmark, Jan Wergin, Lycos’s executive vice-president for the service said.

Lycos registered more than 23m unique visitors in Europe during February, with about 18% of European internet users visiting Lycos at least once, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, which tracks online traffic. In a top-10 list of general interest portals, Lycos Europe came in sixth, with Google, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo taking the top three spots.

But that ranking may be misleading. About 45% of Lycos's traffic in Europe came via the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), which is owned by online retailer Amazon, said Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.

Amazon and Lycos Europe have a business agreement to count traffic through the IMDB for Lycos, Burmaster said.

The Jubii service faces a healthy array of online competitors, with search giant Google and social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster offering services that incorporate some of Jubii's features.

Wergin said one of Jubii's strengths was a facility to let users control their information – for example, determining who can view stored photos.

Those strengths are appealing, but it will come down to how Jubii can sell itself to users who may already be using other services, Burmaster said. "I suppose anything that a company puts out there that makes the online user experience easier and more contained is potentially going to be successful," Burmaster said.

"But it's just a question of how good they are at getting that message out there in a very cluttered space."

Jubii will make money through a mix of online advertising and premium services, Wergin said. For those who sign up for the beta version, Jubii will offer 10GB of storage, while VoIP calls will be limited to five minutes per call for a maximum of 30 minutes a day.

After the beta, Jubii will feature 4GB of free storage, and Lycos will sell more storage as part of a paid service, along with VoIP minutes, Wergin said.

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