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Freewwweb and Free ISP Choice

By Kev Vance in News
Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 11:51:05 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Freewwweb was a free ISP that for years provided a PPP connection and an email address to many locations in the US. What made them different from all of the other free providers was that they required no special client side software. All one needed to connect was a competent PPP daemon -- I commonly used freewwweb on the Linux, OpenBSD, and PalmOS platforms. But recently, their days came to an end.

According to their FAQ, freeweb has shut down and referred their clients to Juno. Not the most platform independent service, they do not provide access to Macs, much less Unices or PDAs. In my search for a free ISP, freewwweb was the only choice that allowed a vanilla PPP connection. Is this the reason they went out of business? Has anyone else tried creating a network like this? Will anyone now?


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Related Links
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Freewwweb and Free ISP Choice | 24 comments (24 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Simple Economics? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
by jay.gatsby on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 09:35:40 AM EST

Sad as it may be, I think this is probably a matter of simple economics. A company that has no source of income, but continues to spend money on utilities, hardware, etc. will eventually fold, barring some perpetual source of funding that can scale to meet user needs. I'm assuming here, of course, that since no special client software was necessary, that they didn't utilize banner ads to generate revenue as do Juno and Netzero do. Did Freewwweb have some other product or service that generated revenue for them?

I'm not so sure that even a business model based on banner advertising can last too long either. I think companies will probably start to realize that banner ads are generally no more effective than any other form of advertising, and spending on them will scale back to some normal level. Of course, I doubt they'll disappear . . .

Maybe I'm just being cynical . . . any comments?

A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind."
-- Proverbs 18.2

Freewwweb uses existing ISP's (?) (none / 0) (#2)
by es-mo on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 09:53:56 AM EST

A company that has no source of income, but continues to spend money on utilities, hardware, etc.

Interestingly, they seem to utilize existing networks rather than build their own. I called up Earthlink recently to get a month's (free) service so I could actually go and register for freewwweb (just moved out of college). Got the phone number and DNS info from Earthlink, typed it in, and surfed on over to freewwweb. Lo and behold, the number freewwweb had me dial into was the same on Earthlink used!

I'm curious how they worked out deals like this... And as with jay.gatsby, I'm curious how they managed to pay for it.

[ Parent ]
Re: Freewwweb uses existing ISP's (?) (none / 0) (#6)
by the coose on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:38:19 PM EST

I'm curious how they worked out deals like this...
My guess is that they pay Earthlink on a bandwidth usage basis. The more users they have the more $$$ the pay Earthlink. As far as generating revenue (and the money to pay Earthlink) it can only be from banner ads and the promise that you put a link to their home page on your home page. They feed all this to potential advertisers who suck it right up.

Personally I'm gonna stick with my US$19.95 a month account that doesn't require me to put up a web page. I also find the advertisements at the bottom of emails from these free ISPs to be quite annoying. Plus, if I get the busies or no answers or LCP negotiation failures, I want to be able to call up my ISP and rant. Can you do this when you're not paying for it?

[ Parent ]

Re: Freewwweb uses existing ISP's (?) (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:08:19 PM EST

They were using UUNet's UUDial network just as Earthlink uses in some locations. Freewwweb actually had POP's in some of the larger populated areas.

They had alot of private funding, and were working on a whole ad system, similar to NetZero, that just never saw the light of day.

Basically they fell due to poor business decisions, bad technical direction, and braindead management.

[ Parent ]

Re: Simple Economics? (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 03:18:51 PM EST

Initially they were making money by having people spend nearly $200 to sign up, and then you'd have free service from then on. They discontinued this almost a year ago, and that was their downfall.

They also had alot of poor management decisions, and very bad technical direction. There were several instances where they were unable to even pay their employees.

It's not necessarily that they weren't going to use ads to generate revenue, that was the original intent. They just never got around to getting the technology fully developed before they ran out of cash.

[ Parent ]

Free ISPs and Economics... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by shadowspar on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 11:07:47 AM EST

It's irritating to wake up one morning and find your ISP bankrupt.

Freewwweb's revenue model involved users setting their browser homepages to http://home.freewwweb.com, which they apparently redirected to sites which would pay them for the resultant hits. For as long as I was a member, http://home.freewwweb.com directed you to http://freewwweb.snap.com.

The only other free ISP I could find without ad banners was one called WorldSpy, which apparently closed shop on June 30. Their revenue apparently came from their on-line storefront homepage - I guess they hoped their subscribers would buy enough stuff to offset the cost of the upstream. More info and free ISP reviews here.

I got mail from freewwweb a month or so ago talking about how they were working on their IPO. Glad I didn't give them any of my cash.
-- Drink Canada Dry! You might not succeed, but you'll have fun trying.

Free ISP choice and Plain Vanilla connections (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:05:04 PM EST

Okay, okay, so you have to set up your account using the Win95 dialer, but after that it's just a vanilla ppp connection. Been running freeinternet from my Linux box (to help my mother get set up on the 'Net) for about three months now, never had a problem...

Re: Free ISP choice and Plain Vanilla connections (none / 0) (#8)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 02:31:36 PM EST

I just tried using that service. I'd dialup and connect
FreeI Networks

Login: cgagne@ny.freei.net
ascend% ppp
Requested Service Not Authorized

Then when I type ppp it wont work. So am I missing something?

[ Parent ]
Re: Ascend% (none / 0) (#11)
by Arker on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:11:38 PM EST

Hrmm my ISP used to give me this problem sometimes when dialing with my "unsupported" (i.e. not Windows9x, one Win 3.1 box and the Linux box) dialers that actually allowed me to see the exchange. I don't know if the 95 DUN dialler got hung up on it, or if it knows some trick to get in anyhow. At any rate the ISP tech support people are quite clueless - they swore that this was impossible, that I couldn't be seeing this, that nothing on their network put out such a prompt. Digging around myself a bit I found that ascend was a hardware manufacturer (www.ascend.com, now absorbed into Lucent Internetworking,) presumably it was their hardware I was talking to, and it was misconfigured - I think that what you are seeing is actually a login prompt for administrators to remotely configure the hardware. I remember when I searched on it I found a CERT advisory (pretty sure it was CERT) about ascend hardware of some sort (routers?) having a problem with sticking up a login prompt when they shouldn't, and using a default password that was often not changed. I never tried to crack them though. And I am no networking hardware guru, I could be totally wrong.

The only fix I ever found was to just keep dialing. Eventually I would get the proper prompt and my ppp connection. The strange thing is, I haven't seen the ascend% prompt in months, but instead I see this prompt roughly as often (unlike the ascend% prompt this one doesn't follow the user/password login, but comes up straight away:

System Password:

I can only guess that they have different hardware now, and it is misconfigured as well. The tech support people are just as baffled as before, and still claim that what I am describing is impossible. These people scare me - they really can't conceive of a computer that isn't running Windows9x-or 2000. Any mention of it goes right over their heads. But they are confident they are technical gods, networking gurus of the highest order, and are not shy about telling you so.

Anyhow, I have to think there must be a real networking hardware guru, or at least a li'l guru's assistant around here, please, someone, fill us in on this.

[ Parent ]
Re: Ascend% (none / 0) (#14)
by Kev Vance on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 06:02:24 PM EST

I remember those. My old ISP had an ascend machine running their modem pool, I think. It would accept your username and password as login, then present you with the ascend% prompt. This was hours of fun. You could view who was dialed in, and for how long, check out network stats, all kinds of great stuff. If you actually wanted a PPP connection (probably what you dialed in for in the first place :) typing "ppp" would put the connection into PPP mode, and then your pppd can take over. You should've typed help at the ascend prompt, I really missed that when it went away :) I've seen the "system password" one, too. I'm not sure whether this works, but after many tries establishing a PPP connection, I enabled PAP authentication and it worked. Maybe that was a fluke, I don't know...

[ Parent ]
quotes? (none / 0) (#21)
by joeyo on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 04:38:03 PM EST

I may be off-base here but don't you need to put your userid and passwd in single quotes when it contains weird symbols???

ie 'cgagne@ny.freei.net' ???

"Give me enough variables to work with, and I can probably do away with the notion of human free will." -- demi
[ Parent ]

freei.net (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 12:30:14 PM EST

I dunno how it is on other platforms, but Freei.net's installer consists of settings for the default Mac PPP software and an annoying advertising program.

Lord knows I never even bothered installing it, once I plucked the configuration information out of the installer. I'd imagine that this ought to work on other platforms with plain vanilla PPP software as well, provided that you can get the info.

One of these days I'll make enough money to afford DSL....

Re: freei.net (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 01:59:31 PM EST

I've been using freei as my ISP for when I'm away from college. The only thing you need a Windows box and their software for is creating the account and getting the list of phone numbers.

After you have created the account and found a local phone number (save the list somewhere, they make a nice anywhere-in-the-US-for-free ISP), configure your favorite dialer and PPP software to call that number, use username@state.freei.net (e.g. joeblow@ca.freei.net) as the username, and the password you selected as your password. Make sure your PPP software uses the server-assigned IPs, and away you go.

[ Parent ]

freewwweb accounts still work (4.00 / 1) (#12)
by eMBee on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:13:27 PM EST

i guess i was one of the last to be able to sign up to freewwweb a few weeks ago.
my account still works fine through linux, infact these lines are typed through the freewwweb dialup.
fortunately this is temporary for me anyways, i have a modem in my office waiting to be set up for dialin...

greetings, eMBee.
Gnu is Not Unix / Linux Is Not UniX

Re: freewwweb accounts still work (none / 0) (#22)
by Yutty on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 01:14:34 AM EST

I'm sure your sysadmin will love you having a modem in your office so you can use their bandwidth and leave a gaping security hole, unless of course you are the sysadmin in which case everyone else can kiss your ass. I know, I am a sysadmin. However my DSL service at home is faster than the DSL service at work seeing as how I am less than a block from the C.O. so I haven't done the modem in the office thing, although I would have if the circumstances were different. Wait, I have DSL, why am I reading this dialup discussion? Oh yeah, I am high. P.S. Employers love a tied up telephone circuit as much as sysadmins love rogue modems.

[ Parent ]
Re: freewwweb accounts still work (none / 0) (#24)
by eMBee on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:09:08 PM EST

ok, i am not the sysadmin, but i have been using the office bandwith before anyways, since all i use the freeweb (and the cable connection i had before i moved) for is, to connect to my office machine and do everything from there (netscape is also using it as a proxy).
also i often work from home, so it would have been a bad idea for my employer not to allow it

what problem should the employer have with a with a tied up phoneline?
and what security problems does a modem have? if modems are a security problem, how do dialup isp's cope? (a rogue modem is a security problem, because the sysadmin is not aware of it, and therefore can not take it into acount when he/she tries to secure the office)

greetings, eMBee.
Gnu is Not Unix / Linux Is Not UniX
[ Parent ]

Continued use of FreeWWWweb (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by balls001 on Fri Jul 21, 2000 at 04:17:50 PM EST

Just for the record, you can still use FreeWWWeb, at least in Canada where they use UUNet as their POP's, for such things as SSH, and if you happen to have a proxy handy on an non-standard port, you can use FreeWWWweb for anything still. They only are redirecting port 80 to a specific web site, and presumably blocking mail ports.

Different Model in the US? (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by excession on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 07:58:45 AM EST

Ok, first up I'm in .uk so this topic looks strange to me for many reasons.
I guess in the US the ISP cannot obtain revenue from terminating phone calls, which is how the ISPs here work. (They get paid by BT a portion of the cost of the phone call). Of course, we get charged to make local rate calls.
Also, most ISPs, except for, notably, AltaVista,are very much platform independent. Most of them will provide automatic setup for Win*/MacOS but still just use a standard pppd, and more and more of them are supporting Linux - the support is generally RedHat centric - but hey, it's a start.
The only ISPs here that now charge a monthly fee are the ones that provide an 0800(free) dial up service.
I guess, as usual, that most of the difference comes down to the fact that we still have a government approved monopoly in charge of the local loop, and you guys don't...

Re: Different Model in the US? (none / 0) (#18)
by zsazsa on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 03:44:33 PM EST

Yes, ISPs can't get paid for terminating phone calls, because local calls in the US are (usually) unlimited and free (after paying ~$20/mo for your line.)

[ Parent ]
where i live ... (3.00 / 1) (#16)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 12:32:55 PM EST

Where I live (Belgium) you have a choice fo free dialins.
Most of the isp's over here work by the same principle. Your account is free, but support costs a lot. It seems a viable model as long as people have support problems :-)
I still use a free account for my Palm, although my regular net connection has been cable for ages (that's another thing which is plentiful available over here compared to the US)

All "free" ISPs allow vanilla PPP (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 02:27:37 PM EST

You just need to know what the real username and password is. If you have a program that hooks RasDial() then you can use Netzero or 1STup (aka Altavista, BlueLight, TheSimpsons) or (my personal favorite before it died) FreeNSafe under Linux, FreeBSD or even *shudder* WinXX without advertisements. Sure, one of these days, they'll fix this little glitch. I wonder how easy it will be, because RADIUS/TACAS seem to be one-time authentication protocols...

FreeI.net (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by DigDug on Sat Jul 22, 2000 at 06:06:07 PM EST

You can use FreeI without the stupid banner client by just... well, connecting through PPP with the same login and password you use for teh banner client. The only problem is that for me, it refuses to connect to any SMTP server, including their own. The exact same thing works when I connect with Earthlink.

I contacted their tech support and they denied everything, of course. Perhaps it's a spam prevention measure, but I can't see how their customers are putting up with not being able to send email. Or maybe they all use Yahoo mail...

Yavista - if you haven't found a nice homepage yet.

shhh! (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun Jul 23, 2000 at 04:31:56 PM EST

I've been doing that for a few months now.. dont want them to catch on.... :)

On an other note, has anyone noticed that FreeLane uses the same dialup numbers as some other free ISP's in your area? Whats going on???

[ Parent ]

Re: shhh! (none / 0) (#23)
by bladerunner on Mon Jul 24, 2000 at 04:28:48 AM EST

UUNET and PSINet 'rent' out access numbers. Earthlink (before the Mindfuck/Mindspring fiasco) rented a lot of numbers from them.
-Ex-slashdotter. I love cats, but hate Katz.
[ Parent ]
Freewwweb and Free ISP Choice | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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