Excite Offers Free Online Storefront Services

Even the less Internet-savvy can now do business online, risk-free, according to the creators of Freetailer, an Excite@Home Inc. service that offers anyone with an internet connection the ability to set up shop online.

By signing on to www.freetailer.com, users can point-and-click their way to creating a business Web site. Everything is free for the first 100 business transactions, at which time users will be asked to upgrade their sites and begin paying monthly fees. However, there is no time limit on the first 100 transactions, so users can take a hiatus and return to their online businesses later without charge.

"It lets (merchants) start small for free and find out if it's right for you. (It lets you) sell something before spending any money," said Dan Odette, vice president of marketing for Excite Business Applications.

In the U.S., 72 percent of small businesses are not yet online, he said.

Although e-mail service through Excite is not included in the package, merchants can link their own e-mail to their site. A POP (point of presence) account is an upgrade option, allowing e-mail to be sent directly to the merchant's store without the Freetailer domain.

The free initial service includes 25M bytes of storage space, 1G byte per month of bandwidth, and a security device that protects the credit card and billing information of each customer. The merchants themselves will be able to access account information, such as product orders, and site-viewing statistics from the service as well.

Although this service is "not a unique offering," according to TeleChoice Inc. consultant Charles Mather who cited similar services, Odette said that Freetailer's appeal is rooted in Excite's ability to "bring a lot of eyeballs to the site." Excite's Web site is visited by more than 28 million visitors a month, making it the fifth largest Internet company, Odette said.

That's where the benefit lies, according to Excite. When merchants set up shop through Freetailer, customers can access their store and specific products through the Excite@Home shopping center. Customers also have access to an electronic-wallet function that recalls credit card numbers and billing information when users want to buy something at any of the Excite@Home stores.

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