American Express has put itself on the top of the
free ISP game with American Express Online, its free ISP for cardholders.
The service not only has very few ads, it also includes some extras
most free ISP's don't provide.
While most free ISP's have been relying on paying advertisers
to earn a profit, American Express has chosen to provide the service
as a reward to its existing cardholders. As a result, they include
some features normally reserved for monthly-fee ISP's, including
24-hour toll-free technical support, and advertising-free webspace.
American Express Online is also the first service we've reviewed
that provides access to Usenet newsgroups.
The service does still show ads at times, but they're normally
shown only when the user is not actively clicking or typing. When
the ads do appear, they're much smaller then the ads seen with
other free ISP services, and don't take up any important space
on the user's screen. Though I found the pop-up ads slightly irritating
at first, I quickly became used to seeing them, and found the
ads to be less irksome than the flashing banners shown constantly
by other free ISP's. See the screen
shots for examples of the advertisements shown by the service.
The one provided e-mail account is easily accessible either from
Outlook Express or a snazzy webmail interface, and experienced
users will have no trouble uploading a website to their 5 MB of
free webspace using FTP. Those who are new to creating webpages
aren't well served by Amex Online's webspace, though, and should
consider using an easier web site host (Homestead is highly recommended
for new web publishers).
Connections are generally speedy, and we've never experienced
a busy signal. Software setup is also a breeze, and Amex Online
doesn't choke if you have more than one modem installed. All users
are, however, required to have Internet Explorer 5.5 installed,
and users without the current version of IE will have to spend
some time downloading the browser.
At this time, Canadian users are out of luck, as are potential
subscribers with Macintosh computers. Amex says they haven't yet
decided whether to provide service to either group.
We give American Express Online 4.5 out of 5 stars, and highly
recommend it to anyone looking for a free ISP.