Lycos Europe is quietly rolling out a service that wraps together several trendy functions it hopes will woo users for its convenience and simplicity.
The service, called Jubii, includes email, instant messaging, SMS, VoIP calls plus photo, video and file sharing, said Jan Wergin, executive vice president of the service. Jubii was launched in the US in February and will start in Europe later this month.
Lycos, one of the major portal players in the 1990s, has stubbornly stuck around but is dwarfed by Yahoo, Google and Microsoft. It's also split: Lycos in the US is owned by the South Korean company Daum Communications, which bought the subsidiary in 2004.
Lycos Europe can't use its brand name in the US, so it has named the service Jubii, a Danish word for joy or fun. The name comes from a successful portal by the same name owned by Lycos Europe in Denmark, Wergin said.
In Europe, Lycos registered about 23.7 million unique visitors in February, with about 18 percent of European internet users visiting Lycos at least once, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, which tracks online traffic. In a top-10 list of general interest portals, Lycos Europe came in sixth, with Google, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo taking the top three spots in that order.
However, that ranking may be misleading. About 45 percent of Lycos' traffic in Europe was via the internet Movie Database (IMDB), www.imdb.com, an Amazon.com property, said Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.
Amazon and Lycos Europe have a business agreement to count traffic through IMDB for Lycos, Burmaster said.
Nonetheless, the Jubii service faces a healthy array of online competitors. From MySpace to Friendster to Google, all have offerings that incorporate some of Jubii's features in some way.
Wergin said one of Jubii's strengths is the ability for a person to control their information, such as who may view stored photos. Jubii can also be used through any web browser, meaning that the application is not tied to a user's home computer.
"I think what is going to happen is a lot of consumers are going to look at one-stop solutions with added value," Wergin said.
Those strengths are appealing, but it will come down to how Jubii can sell itself to users who may already be using other services, Burmaster said.
"I suppose anything that a company puts out there that makes the online user experience easier and more contained is potentially going to be successful," Burmaster said, "but it's just a question of how good they are at getting that message out there in a very cluttered space."
Jubii will make money through a mix of online advertising and premium services, Wergin said. For those who sign up for the beta programme, Jubii will offer 10GB of storage, and VoIP calls will be limited to no more than five minutes per call for a maximum of 30 minutes a day.
After the beta, Jubii will feature 4GB of free storage, and Lycos Europe will sell more storage as part of a premium, paid service, along with VOIP minutes, Wergin said. Pricing hasn't been determined.
Jubii will eventually be available in the UK, Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.