Big changes are afoot at CompuServe, the pioneering online service that in recent years found itself falling ever further behind online leader AOL. The biggest change: Last fall, AOL bought CompuServe, insisting it plans to maintain the service as a separate name. Along the way, CompuServe surrendered to Net economics and announced a flat-rate, unlimited usage plan--$24.95 monthly. (Some areas, especially research archives, continue to have a la carte pricing where members pay extra for what they use.)
But the biggest news for nonmembers is that CompuServe is putting most of its prized interactive discussion and information forums on the Web, including information-rich bulletin boards filled with savvy tips and insights posted by users. About 1,400 CompuServe forums--on everything from marketing and running a home business to technical, computer-oriented topics--are slated to open to viewing by nonmembers in early 1998. Reading the boards is free; posting messages requires a CompuServe membership.
This is good news because most Usenet newsgroups have been made unreadable by tidal waves of spam. So CompuServe's forums will likely emerge as the Net's best venue for ongoing dialogue, while the membership requirement for posting should keep spammers at bay. For current information and directions to the Web-based version of CompuServe's forums, head to http://c.compuserve.com