EarthLink Offers Opt-Out

EarthLink is piling end-user empowerment tools into the latest version of its Internet access software, dubbed TotalAccess 2004 and set to be released later this month.

TotalAccess updates EarthLink’s user interface. The most significant addition is a “Protection” tab that, when clicked, presents surfers with a suite of features, including spamBlocker, originally launched in May; an enhanced version of the two-month old Pop-Up Blocker; and a new parental control feature. Planned additions to the protection tools are spyBlocker, which will detect ad- and spyware on users’ PCs, and an anti-virus capability. The additions will be added in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

EarthLink Accelerator, the company’s high-speed dial-up service, will have its functionality rolled into the basic $21.95 dial-up package. The higher-speed service originally launched last March with a premium $28.95 monthly price tag.

Rob Kaiser, VP of narrowband marketing, explains the company “wants to remove the thorns from the rose that is the promise of the Internet. The focus is on the consumer, and consumer control over the Internet experience. When we hear, ‘well, a particular advertiser might not like that…'” Kaiser shrugs.

The pop-up blocker, which caused something of a stir when it was released in June, can now go further than blocking pop-up ads and Flash animation. Shockwave is added to the list of technologies the new version can be set to block. A new feature can recognize “wanted” pop-ups from whitelisted sites, e.g. travel or banking sites.

SpyBlocker, coming next month, is a service that’s widely available, but not yet offered by an ISP. The Webroot-powered application can detect and block spy- and ad-ware, installed on an estimated 90 percent of PCs. The company is betting consumers concern about the problem will grow.

EarthLink plans to market its Web-based, permission-based spam solution as “virtually 100 percent effective.” Incoming mail is filtered by partner Brightmail, then compared to the subscriber’s contact list. Mail from unknown senders is not downloaded, but filtered to a Web-based “suspect” folder, with customizable options. Jim Anderson, product development VP, says over 100,000 customers activated the product the first month it was released, despite little marketing.

“We believe in giving tools to consumers and letting them decide. We enable the end user experience,” says Kaiser. He points out that while some of these features are available at other major ISPs, often a premium price is involved.

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