Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Sunday, May 02, 2004 1:02 am
Old sites
I seem to be bumping into old outdated expired Internet companies.

First, I had to hunt for a new telephone company, since the Australian bigwig telephone company Telstra was raising its phone rental rates. Unacceptable. But it was either stay on the expensive rental rate plan with cheaper calls, or the lower price rental rate plan with pricey calls.

So, I went looking for companies from which I could use an override code to make cheaper international calls, and long distance calls.

I’ve had my fair share of involvement with phone companies in the past. So it was quite nostalgic going to www.phonechoice.com.au.

Back to 1997, Optus had just about managed to wrest a significant number of households over to themselves. Australians were getting used to have more than one company to look after their calls, and lots of 3rd parties were welljoining the party.

I remember one day going to a Telstra shop for something, and had to fill in a form that said, “who are you with for long distance?”, and there were 2 boxes: Telstra and Optus.

So I said “AAPT”. And they said, “Who is that????” a little rudely I recall.

Anyway, we were with AAPT for a while enjoying incredibly low rates, and then I got smart, and had a look on the Internet. There was a company called WorldXChange that was really really cheap. And I remember that we could call using their override code, and at the end of the month we just had to call them on the phone, and let them know that actually DigiPlus was cheaper, and they’d credit double the difference back to us! I think they were counting that most people wouldn’t. But I did.

More recently, we started to use DigiPlus, and then moved over to Eztel when the quality of DigiPlus was horrible. This was followed by yet another switch to GoTalk, because the rates to Malaysia was about 17.5% lower with no catch. Well, the was a tiny catch—although they said their override code was 1488, it turned out that their override code was actually 1414, same as EzTel. So all the calls I made, thinking it was going through EzTel, actually went through GoTalk. No big loss, in fact, it was a little cheaper. But it meant I could never use EzTel again. EzTel had a capped national call rate, while GoTalk didn’t.

Today, I took a peek at www.worldxchange.com.au only to find that it was gone! What the hey?

The next company I already knew was gone, but had been a great company at the time. That was www.dingoblue.com.auI still miss you Dingo boy. Great call rates, and great Internet rate. And a great attitude.

As for non-telephone companies: www.sold.com.au. I was looking at my old email, and hey, saw this company. I bought a few things from this auction site. One day Yahoo! Australia bought them to compete with eBay. But the problem with auctions is that the more people use ONE, the better. And the less likely a 2nd company would succeed. Or survive. Anyway, www.sold.com.au switches to Yahoo now, and then to www.ebay.com.au!

Next: www.abbottsys.com. Once upon a time, even before WWW, there was an IRC craze. Especially among the international students where we were studying. The concept of passing messages to people back home was incredible. Instant delivery. No waiting. This was the Internet explosion in about 19967. Another company called ICQ became popular among the same crowd, I think because it was damn slick, there was little else in the market, and they had a viral sort of promotion where users would send emails encouraging others to download ICQ. ICQ would tell others when you were online, and able to type-chat. Great idea!

Anyway, the support on the Macintosh lagged. As other companies released their own chatting program like Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and MSN (also slow to the game), the Macintosh clients were slow to show up, and were often feature deplete. I still remember using Gerry ICQ because essentially it was a better than the official ICQ. Users on the PC also used 3rd party clients, but at least they had a decent 1st party client.

There was a program called iChat which was PC and Mac capable. This is NOT Apple iChat, but somethiing that has evolved to GlobalChat. There was also something called iVisit, which I was afraid to use, as it contained quite a bit of “ahem” adult stuff.

Anyway, a Mac-first company called AbbottSys released AtChat which had a Mac and PC client, and was stable, small and slick. Unlike every other chat program, it had a central server only to show who was online at the time. The user did NOT have to enter a username or password. They just needed to enter a unique piece of textwe usually used our email address (maybe not a good idea now in this age of spam).

This was superb. No registration needed, fast, secure, and essentially slick. All messages went directly between clients, not through Abbott’s servers; similar to the DCC command in IRC. I thought AbbottSys should put a copy on every single Mac out there. Because the more people that use a chat program, the better. A snowball effect happens, and there’s more encouragement to actually launch the application, and get familiar with it.

Unfortunately, Abbottsys didn’t do that. I can’t remember if I actually sent them a message to express my opinions. No one heard of AbbottChat; or even if they did, how could they convince all their friends to use it? And AbbottChat languished. About once every 2 years, I visit www.abbottsys.com to see whether they’ve unleashed AbbottChat on the general public. Unfortunately no. It’s now a Windows only application, and users need to pay $29 to use it. Right.

Guys, Bitwise Chat just ate your lunch.

Anyway, Apple did eventually release a chatting program, and chose AOL to partner with. Now, iChat comes on every Mac. I think that’s the single thing that has made iChat so popular. Previously, every Mac user had AIM to play with prior. But with iChat, instant messaging has never been as popular among the Mac users as it has been now.

So, that’s my experience with dead companies. Hopefully Apple will still be around in 10 years time. They survived the last 10 years, which was a miracle.

Lots of companies have not survived the switch to OS X either. Examples: TypeIt4Me—looks like evolution has ended. Sad. Ircle is a shadow of what it used to be. Maybe due to the ease of creating IRC clients that look nicer under OS X. SpeedyFinder, Netlink, KALI, XNS, Pointcastall gone.

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