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AOL allows personalised email addresses

Free for now but will charge in future

AOL is testing a scheme to let its members customise their AOL Mail address by using a domain name of their choice instead of the default aol.com, the ISP and web portal firm announced last week.

AOL members interested in the MYeAddress test project can find more information and sign up here.

The move is another attempt by AOL to increase the allure of the services it provides for paying customers, who have been cancelling their subscriptions at an alarming rate in the past several years. Most former subscribers graduated from AOL's slower dialup access to broadband services from other ISPs.

Choosing a new domain name will not affect the member's AOL Mail account. The password will remain the same, as will the mailbox and its contents. The difference will be that all mail the member sends will carry the new domain name, while the member will be able to receive mail sent to both domains in the same mailbox.

AOL warns, however, that MYeAddress accounts will be cancelled when the test project ends. Consequently, participants should choose a domain name they're not interested in using after the scheme closes.

Participating in the test is free but limited to AOL subscribers. Once the beta period ends, there will be a fee attached to MYeAddress.

AOL is providing MYeAddress in conjunction with Affinity Internet, which will process domain-name registrations, according to AOL.

MYeAddress subscribers will be able to use their chosen domain name as the address to a website as well, although this isn't currently part of the beta programme. When this becomes available, Affinity will provide web-hosting services.

AOL ended this year's first quarter with 18.6 million US subscribers, down by 3.1 million from Q1 2005. AOL had 24 million subscribers in Q1 2004.

Although AOL is refocusing its business on being an open web portal and selling online ads, the transition is far from complete. Its Q1 2006 revenue declined seven percent to $2bn (about £1.1bn), caused by a 13 percent fall in subscription revenue. Operating income fell 14 percent to $269m (£143m).

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