ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, NetZero, Juno, United Online

ISP Hall of Shame Inductee

(merged with Juno to form United Online)

ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, NetZero, Juno, United Online


NetZero (merged with Juno to form United Online)

Personal agony: August 2000 to September 2001

NetZero, the company with the big Super Bowl commercials and heavy TV ad presence in the first half of 2000, is just a wisp of its former self. I started using them and occasionally the Kmart-branded (using the service) as my 1stUp connection became flakier. NetZero's banner-ad serving Java client, ZeroPort is one of the crappiest pieces of software I have ever used (unresponsive, often hangs forcing a reboot, often crashes and leaves the COM port open forcing a reboot, often doesn't connect at all).

They have some really awful videos running while you wait for the dialup process. The cheesiest one is the Mark Goldston fireside chat where he's trying to explain why the "Defenders of the Free World" aren't free after a dozen hours per month.

December 29, 2000 update

171 FC points. Here's what Pud wrote: "Free ISP NetZero wasn't making any money. The execs sat around in their board room one day scratching thier [sic] heads trying to figure out just why they weren't making any money. The result of that meeting? They now charge actual *money* to their customers. Woohoo!"

How does the market react? NetZero (NASDAQ: NZRO) closes at $0 23/32 on December, 22, 2000, a 52-week low.

February 7, 2001 update - Someone had a brain tumor for breakfast

Well, it looks like the "Defenders of the Free World" will only defend you free of charge (if you call annoying banner ads in the ZeroPort window "free") for 40 hours a month and then they'll start charging. Now I have a question: is this 40 hours of usable service or does that include the hung network connections, the interminable moments while the crummy ads flood the modem, the countless busy signals, the wedged PPP servers, the service outages, the time downloading new "user preferences", etc.?

March 12, 2001 update

I've used NetZero a couple of times when I recently booted Windoze; it still sucks. It usually doesn't successfully connect. These guys apparently have enough cash for another twelve months, but I don't expect them to last much longer than that unless they can generate some profit - a highly doubtful scenario.

April 3, 2001 update - I'm back!

Now that my Telocity DSL line is dead, I can "enjoy" NetZero's crappy service once again.

Oh yes, NetZero (NASDAQ: NZRO) closes at $0.469, a new 52-week low.

April 23, 2001 update

Shareholder lawsuits start rolling in against NetZero. What a surprise.

June 7, 2001 update - Nostradamus did not predict this one

NetZero and Juno announce a merger to form a new company, United Online. Is that like a double negative? I guess they're trying to steal a page from a successful book and name their company like America Online.

" assured that you will continue to receive top quality Internet access from NetZero..." Hahahahahahaha!!!!! That's very funny, Mark.

July 17, 2001 update

Four NetZero founders fly the coop = more FC points. These damn popup ads are a real pain in the ass, too.

August 1, 2001 update - The onetime "Defenders of the Free Internet" are getting their butts kicked

After the market close today, NetZero announced that it was clobbered 26% of its employees and reducing the free version of the online service from 40 hours to a measly 10 hours per month. Considering how crappy their network performance is (unresponsive dialup servers, local router problems, ISP egress issues, DNS lookup snafus, et cetera ad nauseam), that's about two hours of usable bandwidth around 33.6Kb. You'll spend most of it downloading crappy banner ads and cheesy Mark Goldston videos.

The service changes are supposed to go into effect October 1; I assume the Reduction In Force will go into effect a lot sooner than that. You can get 150 hours per month with AT&T WorldNet for $4.95 per month.

Also, NetZero indicates that it is bailing out of outlying areas where the costs of running (or paying for) a dial-up network are prohibitive. Hmmm, as I wrote previously WorldCom was billing defunct free ISP Freewwweb $1.2 million per week for the use of its network. Maybe I can see how network costs might be saved this way...

Oops, I almost forgot: 115 FC points. Thanks, Mark!

August 10, 2001 update

Is it my imagination or had the NetZero network been working marginally better? My guess is that fewer people are actually using NetZero since it's announcement to cut services. The best performance from a free ISP was from Freewwweb a few days before it closed shop.

August 20, 2001 update - "Tick, tock, tick tock"

I've been burning up the hours on my free ISP accounts since is going to a pay-to-surf model and NetZero is cutting back free access to ten hours per month at the end of August. The NetZero service still serves up plenty of pop-up ad windows, but you know, I've been on the 'Net for so long, it's not a really big issue anymore. My eyes are pretty much accustomed to ignore anything flashing or moving on the screen. It's like watching television; as soon as the volume gets really loud, it's time to take a little walk.

The only really annoying thing on Windozes is that pop-up ads grab keyboard/mouse focus (something that's easily dealt with a decent X Windows window manager like Sawfish).

August 20, 2001 update - Time's up, pencils down!

Today, NetZero alerts me that I've used up forty hours this month. See you in September for my last month of forty, wonderful, ad-filled free hours!

August 27, 2001 update - Spare a dime, buddy?

"Dear Sir or Madam: While we detected that you clicked through the banner ads, we were shocked (really!) to learn that you didn't buy anything and that you were just blindly clicking on the ads to prevent the dialup session from getting cancelled. Some people even think you closed the new window before it had completely downloaded, but I know you at least let the every byte trickle across and that you read the fabulous ad copy. But now we're begging for a handout."

Blah, blah, blah.

August 28, 2001 update

NetZero's Q4 loss increases to $42 million, 36 cents per share. One hundred points for yours truly. Some helpful soul posts the URL to a freeware utility called Zero Popup, that defeats NetZero popups.

September 5, 2001 update

Goodness gracious, NetZero's network is so incredibly hosed today: DNS errors, busy signals, slow modem connections, user authentication errors, etc. I'm finally logged on at 31.2 Kbps. Wow, feels like 1997.

September 10, 2001 update - Thanks for defending the free Internet for me!

For over five days, NetZero's network continues to hemorrhage. DNS lookup performance has been as bad as an abymsal 0.97 kilobit per second; that was two days ago. Today, dropped modem connections are the order of the day, although DNS also continues to be atrociously bad. That's before NetZero tells me that I've used up my forty hours for this month.

September 21, 2001 update

NetZero (NASDAQ: NZRO) closes today's session at an all-time low of $0.38 per share, the second day it has reached a new bottom.

September 25, 2001 update - NetZero and Juno merger complete

NetZero Inc. has completed its merger with Juno Online Services Inc. forming the very generically named United Online Inc. which will commence trading on the Nasdaq tomorrow, Wednesday, 26 September 2001, under the ticker symbol UNTD.

I will post updates on Juno (and NetZero) service in the new United Online section.


Last modified on Wed Jan 1 18:35:49 GMT 2003
Copyright © 1999-2003 Tara Hertz.
All rights reserved.

ISPs who suck, ISP Hall of Shame, NetZero, Juno, United Online