AvantGo to Greatly Restrict Custom Channels

Update: AvantGo has dropped this policy in favor of a new one that isn't so restrictive . Therefore, most of this information is out of date.

Beginning in just a couple of days, AvantGo will limit the number of subscribers to custom channels to just eight people for each channel. Custom channels are created by users as links to small sites that don't have a formal contract with AvantGo. Regular channels, like the ones listed on AvantGo's site, won't be affected. On February 20, all AvantGo users will be unsubscribed from all their custom channels. The first eight people to resign up for each custom channel will be allowed to do so. All others will be blocked.

This won't affect sites that have a contract with AvantGo, including this one.

According to AvantGo, some sites are abusing its policy of allowing users to subscribe to any page they want and creating commercial sites without signing a contract with AvantGo. From AvantGo's perspective, these sites are using AvantGo's servers and networks for their own commercial gain without paying AvantGo for it.

This isn't a new policy from the company. Custom channels have always been limed to non-commercial use. AvantGo has never tried very hard to enforce this policy before, however. Apparently, it has decided that, with its limited resources, checking each custom channel for all of its 4.5 millions subscribers is impractical so it has decided on this slightly draconian solution.

Like most small, high-tech companies, AvantGo has been struggling to remain afloat. In its most recent quarter, the company had a pro forma net loss of $4.7 million, or $0.14 per share, on revenues of just $5.3 million. So the company can't afford any unnecessary expenses or to pass up any sources of revenue.

Still, the company needs to be careful about driving away companies that host useful channels. According to PocketPCThoughts, it received a bill of $6000. The site immediately pulled its channel.

There is no charge for a custom channel with eight or fewer subscribers. For sites with between 9 and 100 subscribers, the annual fee is $1,000. For those sites with less than 500 subscribers, the fee is $4,000. Between 500 and 1000, AvantGo charges $6,000. All sites with more than 1,000 subscribers are supposed to work out an individual contract with AvantGo.

ABC News and ESPN have recently removed their AvantGo channels. No reason was given but it's possible they became too expensive.

While it has proved to be quite popular, AvantGo isn't the only application that can download Web content onto a handheld. There are alternatives like iSilo, Pendragon Browser, Plucker, and Aladdino.

Related Information:

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Time to Jump Ship

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 5:17:20 PM #
AvantGo was on the verge of total domination. It's too bad they didn't have the cash to hang on. I am very ticked.

Well, I guess it's time I finally learned how to use Plucker:


...first coola, now this.

RE: Time to Jump Ship
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 5:22:45 PM #
I doubt AvantGo wants to be totally dominant in the "giving stuff away for free" department. It is not a very profitable business model.

RE: Time to Jump Ship
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 5:28:20 PM #
No, but it's too soon for them to start demanding sites to start coughing up the dough, which is why I said its too bad that they didn't have more cash.

...the real bummer is that not only do I have no idea as to which of my channels are going to be nixed and which aren't, I don't know what time they're doing the deed on Wednesday and so I won't be able to save them.

*sigh* Plucker is such a pain, but it is the only automated solution left to me.

RE: Time to Jump Ship
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 5:54:40 PM #
> but it's too soon for them to ...

AvantGo has been around for years. I understand quite well why they can't afford to give you and thousands of other people free service. Would you like to provide a bunch of servers to proxy content and Internet bandwidth to sevrvice thousands of people for free? In fact I'm sure AvantGo would be glad to just let you pick up those costs for them, and save you the effort of getting those systems and services set up.

RE: Time to Jump Ship
JeepBastard @ 2/18/2002 6:03:05 PM #
This is a travesty!

I run an avantgo channel. I have a contract with them, but I am not paying 1 dollar per subscriber. That's insane. I guess they will be doomed. It's funny because they certainly will be facing the challenege of high bandwidth always-on portable devices that can pull down and render full sized webpages.

Cut out the middleman. I guess they have to make cash back for the investors now before it's too late.


What they SHOULD do...

GregGaub @ 2/18/2002 5:23:24 PM #
...is create a client for individual user's desktops like how iSilo and Plucker work. It can't be all that hard to format content for their sucky browser, and I'm sure a desktop app could do it. I bet a lot of users would happily install a client so that they can still use their favorite custom channels, even if it means longer HotSync times.
While my PUG doesn't get a ton of traffic, I'm sure there are more than 8 subscribers to our little channel, and I'm not about to pay AvantGo a bank just to keep it going.

RE: What they SHOULD do...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 11:06:45 PM #

They did. It was called Avantgo 1.0. I think they flat out skipped version 2.0 and moved 3.0 to their current incarnation where they host your channel setup. I'd still be using 1.0 if it supported color and more than 1 bit graphics.

Time to try an alternative.


jeremyf @ 2/18/2002 5:46:20 PM #
I call Slashdot!

RE: Dibs
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 2:23:20 AM #
Like heck you are...I'm hounding it at midnight. Along with the onion and GameSpyDaily


I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:19:08 PM #
I'm not sure where people are getting these prices that they are posting. On the AvantGo website, the prices for custom channels say: 1-8 users free, 9-100 users $1000, 101-500 users $4000, 501-1000 users $6000, and >1000 users contact AvantGo.

Go here:
and click on "affordably priced".

Pretty steep for smaller numbers of users (above 8). Clearly they are looking to only provide enterprise services, with that pricing.

RE: Prices...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 9:11:18 PM #
Agreed. Who the hell's going to pay $6-$10 a user. Maybe $.6-$.10 a user. At one time I actually considered recommending to my customers (I'm an internet developer) that they set up a channel with AvantGo. At these prices, if you aren't planning on having over 1000 users, and negotiating a price with AvantGo, you may as well put a plucker tutorial on your website instead. Way more cost effective.

With these changes, I would expect about 20%-30% of all of the channels on AvantGo to disappear within the first month after this takes place. Obviously all of the Custom Channels are all gone on Feb. 20th, but these prices are going to force many smaller channels out pretty quick as well. Too bad for the little guys!

RE: Prices...
flashk @ 2/19/2002 12:25:48 AM #
Umm.. I checked the link. It's an ANNUAL fee. $10 per user per year? That's like $1.2 a month. I don't see what the fuss is all about.

Add a special subscription price for Avantgo users of your site, and I don't think that many users will complain about paying $10 a year to get AvantGo if the content is worth it.

It looks like a fair deal to me.

RE: Prices...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 4:02:12 AM #
Fair deal? How about FREE????

Try Plucker, you can get to the same sites, and their browser is much, much better!

RE: Prices...
farmhandbadguy @ 2/20/2002 12:06:39 AM #
Nothing is truly free.

Swirling.... swirling..... whoosh!

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:37:26 PM #
Avantgo continues to prove how easy it is to take a great idea and then screw it up beyond all repair.

Don't look now, but that little speck is what's left of the company going down the toilet...

Personally, I've seen this coming, ever since they started the shift towards enterprise markets. It's been my impression that they've not really *wanted* personal users any more.

Oh well, yet another reason why plucker and/or iSilo is a better solution for most of us "normal joes"

RE: Swirling.... swirling..... whoosh!
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:51:10 PM #
> It's been my impression that they've not really
> *wanted* personal users any more.

They don't want to pay to give you free content anymore. What is so hard to understand about that?

RE: Swirling.... swirling..... whoosh!
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 7:17:39 PM #
I think you have to realize that the entire public offering was just proof of concept for AvantGO. They needed to prove that they had a scaleable solution in order to grab the enterprise market. If they can give the service away to 4.5 mil users, they can show that they can handle the average enterprise deployment.

Now that the end users have proven their case, they don't need to absorb the cost of providing a free deliver service to everyone who wants it.

If you like the service they provide, then you are goint to have to pay for it. If you don't need the control of custom channels you can use some of the other widley available, advertising driven channels.

The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:49:16 PM #
This just happened to show up in my inbox on 2/4/2002

Dear Mobile Enthusiast,

Mazingo Network (www.mazingo.net) would like to extend you an invitation
to submit your mobile web site to Mazingo's mobile delivery service for
the Pocket PC. Unlike Avantgo, publishing on the Mazingo Network is free,
and submitting a channel couldn't be easier. Plus, we're doing some
revolutionary new stuff.

Mazingo is best described as AvantGo on steroids. Text-only sites work
great, but customers can also receive rich media content, including movies,
TV shows, radio programs and photographs. Several major publishers are
already participating including RCA Records, ABC News, USA Today and
others to be announced.

Moreover, we want to put money in your pocket, rather than charging you
outrageous prices to use our network. Mobilizing your web site is free,
and we have a few different ways for you to turn your site into a profit

But first, you need to submit your site. If you already have an AvantGo
channel, it will work perfectly with Mazingo. Just take 2 minutes to fill
in the form here:

Mazingo Network is turning the Pocket PC into a killer mobile
entertainment and information device, and we want to you to participate in
this truly revolutionary technology. Come submit your PDA-friendly web
site to our directory today, and we'll tell you how to start making money
from your submission.


Carmine Gallo
VP Channel Development
Mazingo Network, Inc
415.346.7100 (ext.101)

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:53:12 PM #
I would like a free alternative, not $200 (the cheapest PPC is the Jornada 520, to be able to use Mazingo).

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 6:54:46 PM #
how do we know you're not carmine gallo, if that is your real name?

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 7:23:27 PM #
From their website/manual:

Mazingo currently does NOT support the following devices:

Casio BE-300
HP 720, 660, 620 LX
Other H/PC devices
Palm OS devices, including the Handspring and Sony Clie.
Philips Nino

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 12:02:18 AM #
I am beta testing the new version of HandStory right now, it lets you sync up news sites and set up custom channels to sync to your palm. It has many of the popular channels right now, supports hi-res and can use the back button on the Clie. I use it more than AvantGo right now. Once 2.0 is release I would suggest you give it a try.

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 12:40:48 AM #
I think you have no place here since this is Palm OS site. Come back later when you have a Palm OS Application. I hope you will know what is the difference between a Palm OS application and PPC application. Try to read something to educate yourself. Okay!!!

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 9:17:03 AM #
I'm looking forward to use HandStory 2.0. HandStory is one the PalmOS software I use the most right now. The 2.0 version looks very tempting... :-)

RE: The heck with AvantGo...here's an Alternative
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/21/2002 7:06:02 PM #
a HALF alternative! Mazingo only support Pocket PC as now.


I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 7:17:50 PM #
Um Ed...You used the term "useful sites" and pocket pc thoughts in the same context.

Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 8:13:26 PM #
Well, looks like the free lunches are going after all. What a shame. Avantgo was the "killer app" that made me think PDA's was just more than organizing time and schedules. And instead of capitalizing on their lead and improve on their product they are cutting their nose to spite their face.

By the way, add Pendragon Software's Browser to an alternative to them:


Maybe one of these companies can take up where they left off. That is if Avantgo lets them. They have patented their technology of syncing to PDAs. If they are in a financial lurch and hoping to squeeze everyone else out with stupid licensing policies I will be the first to choke Avantgo off and encourage everyone else to do the same.

RE: Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 9:20:09 PM #
Huh ?!?

Why the heck should Avantgo give you free service? The purpose of the company is to make money--not provide social welfare to people like you.

The whole purpose of the "free" service was proof-of-concept. If you want the service in the future, then pay for it.

Obviously, you like the service. Now, pony up the cash if you find it indispensable as you state. Put your money where yer mouth is.

RE: Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 10:26:25 PM #
That's a silly argument. AvantGo didn't give us, the end users, the option to pay for the service. I certainly would have, just as I pay for other services that I find indispensable such as Mapopolis.

The point is that AvantGo did what it did really well and could have found all sorts of better ways to make money off the service. Why not, for example, allow users to gain free access to two or three channels, but charging a monthly or yearly subscription for additional channels? That way, they could allow custom content providers to advertise to their hearts' content while providing incentive to maintain high-quality content.

I think you're way off base.

RE: Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 10:33:03 PM #
I don't think that you understand Avantgo's decision. They are not asking the USERS to pay a subscription, but they are asking the PUBLISHERS to pay a subscription. This means that non-profit organizations (like PalmInfocenter, no doubt) will not be able to afford the subscription fees.

I, for one, would be willing to pay $5 a month to view public interest content (i.e. news, hobby pages, etc).

If my company chooses to provide a channel for the sale of their product or for service to their customers, then they have a reason to pay the subscription fees.

RE: Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 1:58:22 PM #
I, too, find this a sad, sad way of dealing with a revenue problem. I find AvantGo one of the top two useful apps on my Palm Vx. The ability to easily add web content to non-wired handhelds via sync'ing is a powerful example of the usability of these devices. As a user of a beneficial service, I would also gladly pony up a monthly subscription fee to continue using AvantGo uninterrupted. Unfortunately, the company seems to have decided that they would rather slowly choke off the public subscription service. A shame, considering the alternative to profitability in these tight economic times.

RE: Geat Idea, Poor Business Plan
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/20/2002 4:54:11 AM #
I think the first person who replied to this feedback obviously has a huge chip on his/her shoulder! Nobody is asking for a free lunch and it was a figure of speech. It was also interesting to note that some of the smaller publications will be choked off and we end up with big boys that already saturate our airwaves (i.e. CNN, NBC, etc) who can obviously afford the fees set by Avantgo. It makes us less "rich" when information is only controlled by the few.

Either Avantgo re-look at their fees charged to publications and make it more affordable or as one reader suggested limit the free channels and introduce a premium account surcharge. Alternatively, sell Avantgo as a software with things that we REALLY like to see such as clipping.

On the other hand, HandStory seems like an interesting alternative.

Lovely, just lovely.

strredwolf @ 2/18/2002 8:56:14 PM #
There goes the Stalag '99 Micro Edition. Thanks alot, Avantgo, you could of had a deal with KeenSpot and split the ad profits by providing services to thousands of KeenSpace/Spot webcomics.

Time to make MobileKeen, a webcomic PalmOS client.


I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 9:18:47 PM #
I really regret this decision by AvantGo.
I am one of those foreigners using an AvantGo channel not only daily, but hourly to keep updated on the latest news offered by two Belgian newspapers. I insisted personnally with one of these two to start offering content through AvantGo, content which would otherwise have remained out of reach for me as a Belgian, and they kindly followed my suggestion.
All this is going to disappear. Only the "big ones" will survive: CNN, USAToday, not the (much more interesting !) smaller national newspapers.

RE: yeah...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 9:23:14 PM #

Let's say it again:

Avantgo is not a provider of social welfare to people like you. They're in the business of making money. Understand?

If you like the service, then pay for it. Say again: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL).
And again... TANSTAAFL.

RE: yeah...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/18/2002 9:36:36 PM #

(there is only a free lunch for US citizens)

RE: yeah...
jeremyf @ 2/19/2002 3:10:23 AM #
Hm, don't worry. Just get the mobile page for the sites you want (eg, www.slashdot.org/palm or p5.oa.yahoo.com/raw?dp=news ), and use another program. None is as good as Avantgo now, but there wasn't one needed with Avantgo being free. There'll be a good replacement soon, I predict, and if someone writes one and charges $5 for it, they'll be rich (hint to programmer/readers)

RE: yeah...
I.M. Anonymous @ 2/19/2002 9:22:54 AM #
yeah.... and what about Mazingo for Pocket PC?

RE: yeah...
Altema @ 2/19/2002 6:56:01 PM #
>yeah.... and what about Mazingo for Pocket PC?

Pocket PC users are a small percentage here, you may gather more business at a relevant site.

RE: yeah...
taxus @ 3/17/2002 12:17:36 PM #
Hey Belgian friend, look into www.mobipocket.com. MobiPocket Reader is a European e-book reader that comes with a news synchronization tool. MobiPocket publishes in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. It works on PalmOS, PocketPC, WindowsCE, Psion and Franklin eBookMan. Its format is Open eBook, which is based on XML and HTML, and uses XML/XSL files as a way to configure the retrieval of web pages; so anyone that knows XML/XSL can "make" a "channel". You're not limited to low-graphics pages, since XML/XSL config files allow you to retrieve only relevant data, without the ads. All in all, it's a quite more flexible product, not only targeted at enews reading.
My only beef with MobiPocket Reader is that it obviously comes from the PocketPC world: it has a too graphical interface, and therefore I find it too slow for e-book reading on my 16MHz Palm IIIxe (compared to iSilo and PalmReader). So I went back to using iSilo, until I upgrade to a newer Palm, that is.
As for AvantGo, I haven't used it in quite a while: it uses way too much memory, and I didn't find it very stable. It was a great idea, but I would have liked it more memory-efficient, more stable, and I would have liked the ability to cut & paste text.

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