e-World: Apple's Own Online Service
Author: Bob Oswell and Kevin Savetz
Date: April, 1994
Keywords: AOL america online compuserve apple computer modem prodigy
Text: Competition heats up for your cyberspace buck Bob: Apple Computer is on the verge of launching its own commercial online service it calls e-World. Currently, e-World is in beta testing, and I am one of the beta-testers. (Beta testing, by the way, is when you sign up for free (usually) to debug someone's software.) e-World was first officially announced at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco last January. The spokespeople for Apple I heard at Expo made it clear that e-World is a commercial venture on the part of Apple and that Apple intends to be making money with this service. In this regard, then, e-World will be like CompuServe, Prodigy, or America Online. In keeping with the Macintosh interface e-World is graphical. There are windows, picture buttons, icons, illustrations and even music (well, there was until the recent version of the software). The software works much like the FirstClass software used by the SMUG BBS. There is some kind of server software residing in a central computer, and each user receives a disk containing the ''client'' software that sets up the interface. Like all cyberspace communities, e-World has important gathering spots. There is the Information Booth, where you can get information and help about e-World. There's the Community Center where you can join in discussions with other e-World inhabitants. The Business and Finance Plaza offers business news, financial advice, etc. The Newstand features (at this point in the testing) USA Today and Reuter's News. The Marketplace promises to have online ordering from the Mac mail-order companies, such as MacZone. There is an Arts & Leisure Pavilion, a Library and, of course, the Computer Center. At this point in the testing, it looks like Apple intends to bring together many of the various companies, services, magazines, and information sources found in several of the other online services. For instance, on CompuServe I can access ZiffNet/Mac (the publishers of MacUser), on AOL I can place an order with MacWarehouse, or I can access technical information on Apple's own AppleLink. e-World promises to give you all this in one service...plus Internet access (at least for e-mail). Apple claims that e-World will be a worldwide service, so theoretically I can connect with other e-World denizens who happen to have their corporal bodies in other places on our globe. As a beta-tester I have several observations: 1) The interface resembles that of AOL. Perhaps Apple is using the same server software. The art work is cartoonish. Actually, it kind of grows on you. 2) One annoying thing: like the bad ol' days with AOL, whenever I log onto e-World any new artwork/graphical information must be downloaded to my computer first. Now, I assume this is done this way because e-World is still ''work in progress'', and the designers are still adding features. I'm hoping that in the working version of e-World, artwork will be downloaded only when the user accesses that particular area. 3) Because e-World is a work in progress, logging on is an adventure: new features are constantly being added. A construction hard hat with an ''e'' on it marks those features that are still being developed. 4) Another annoying thing: e-World's resum* feature stinks. For those of you who haven't used the resum* command on SMUGgler's BBS; a resum* is a window where you can type in information about yourself that other users can view. Like a job resum*, the online version is a summary of <you>, and you can reveal as much (or as little, or nothing) about yourself as you wish. The e-World resum* is like the one on AOL: it forces you into only supplying specific info. It's not free-form like SMUG's BBS which runs SoftArc's FirstClass software. I enjoy reading the creative missives SMUG members place in their resum*s. An e-World r*sum* reads like ''name, rank and serial number.'' (At least it doesn't ask you for your ''sign''.) 5) Because I'm kind of a computer techie, I spend more time in the Computer Center than any other place. So far, I like what I see. I got to read some discussions about the PowerMacs that were very informative. It looks like e-World will give users direct access to the Apple software and hardware folks. So*will I subscribe to e-World when it goes from beta to final product? You bet, Buckwheat! It's interesting, it's as Mac-oriented a commercial online service as you can find, and promises to have a lot of depth, as well as width. Apple claims that the service will cost $8.95 per month base price, which include 2 free hours per month during evenings and weekends. Prime time hours (6 A.M. to 6 P.M. Monday through Friday) will be $7.90 per hour. A bit pricey, but not out of line with services like CompuServe. Besides, I tend to go online after 6 P.M., (actually, more like after midnight.) Is it better than SMUGgler's? Well, ''it depends.'' SMUG's BBS gives you a premium service at a bargain price. But SMUGgler's is like a solar system in cyberspace: lots of interesting planets, asteroids and other objects. However, if you want to go galactic or intergalactic, then you'll want to access one of the commercial services (or the Internet). And I think e-World will be one good way to access galactic cyberspace. Kevin: After spending a few hours in the world of e-World, I can certainly say that this online service has potential. It offers the usual online fare - chat services, downloads, online news, weather and sports, but - at least so far, it has potential to offer more. The service is easy to use. It's based on the software that makes AOL tick, so it has a similar look and feel. In the few times I've logged on, I've seen it change bit by bit to be different from AOL. (The first time I logged on, private real-time communications were called instant messages - the same term AOL uses... the next time I checked, they were called One-on-Ones.) e-World seems to be pushing the technical support angle - you can get help straight from Apple on just about any topic you can think of. Or, check ZIffNet for online Mac mags and software. Several hardware/software vendors have signed on to offer product support, too. The problem is, aside from these few features, I haven't seen much on e-World that you can't find on a half dozen other services. I wonder how this service will make itself ''different'' from the rest? The online atmosphere is friendly - it's a well-lighted, convivial atmosphere. The population is still small (currently about 4,000 members). Who knows what will happen once eWorld goes ''live.'' I assume the e-World staff will strive to keep it a clean, family atmosphere, but the trick will be doing it in a way that doesn't offend users. (Just ask Prodigy users, who time and time again skewer that service for censorship.) Oh, e-World, you'll be walking a fine line. There's no way to tell which way you'll go, but I certainly wish you luck.
Copyright © april, 1994 by Bob Oswell and Kevin Savetz