AOL membership soars past 17 Million

American Online's worldwide membership has surpassed the 17 million mark, the company has announced.

Its members are spending an average of 55 minutes online daily, an increase of almost 10 minutes from last year, AOL said. During peak hours, AOL supports more than 1.1 million members simultaneously, a 63 per cent increase from 1998, the company said.

In addition, e-mails sent jumped from 28 million per day in 1998 to 56 million per day this year, AOL said. Instant messages saw an increase (200 million per day in 1998 to 432 million per day in 1999), as well as stock quotes (75 million in per day 1998 to 121 million per day this year) and Web URLs served (800 million per day in 1998 to 2.6 billion per day in 1999), AOL added.

One analyst called AOL's membership "true strength in numbers." By adding content and other services, AOL is in the midst of circular momentum, retaining users and ensuring merchants and AOL partners will be able to attract more users, said Bridget Leach, an analyst at Giga Information Group. AOL is also benefiting from the general increase in Web usage, Leach said.

AOL's service is still easy to use, and there has been no defection of experienced members, she said. But in the end, AOL won't corner the market in this industry, Leach predicted, because there will still be users who "don't want a guiding hand" or want specialised services.

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