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SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- PlanetOut, a new company serving an international online community of lesbians and gay men, opens its doors for business today. PlanetOut is the first comprehensive service geared to the social, entertainment, educational and political interests of a vast and varied community of gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. The service debuts first on The Microsoft Network (MSN), and later this year will appear on the World Wide Web and America Online (AOL).

A worldwide community

Through its initial MSN platform, PlanetOut is the first easy-to-use online service to reach an international audience. Since its debut as part of MSN's beta test in April 1995, thousands of users throughout North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America have visited PlanetOut.

"The gay community has always been one of the most active groups online. Now PlanetOut on MSN brings this international community an easy-to-use service for the first time," said Russell Siegelman, General Manager, The Microsoft Network.

Though PlanetOut's principal language is English, the service also supports French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Russian. When tools are available, the service will offer Chinese and Japanese support.

Sizable gay market

A January 1995 subscribers study conducted by Out, the largest circulation gay magazine in the U.S., revealed that lesbians and gay men are more than twice as likely as the total population to own personal computers and modems. Of those households owning computers, nearly half already subscribe to an online service. Current estimates are that these percentages translate to nearly 15 million potential customers.

Editorial and production team

PlanetOut has been created and staffed by a unique team of designers, producers, technologists and marketers.

"PlanetOut has assembled a crackerjack team of people to deliver the four c's: content, community, context, and commerce. With PlanetOut joining our existing gay channel, the GLCF, America Online will offer the widest choice for our lesbian and gay audience," said Ted Leonsis, president of America Online Services.

Founder and president Tom Rielly has been a marketing and sales executive at Radius/SuperMac, Farallon Computing, and The Voyager Company for the past ten years. Rielly also founded Digital Queers, a non-profit group dedicated to equipping the gay movement with high technology.

Technical director is Christian Williams, previously Webmaster of Sun Microsystems' R&D labs and co-founder of Youth Action Online, a peer-to-peer support service for gay youth on the Internet. MSN Forum Manager is Darren Nye, who has run a variety of computer-related and gay and lesbian topical BBSs for 14 years -- since age 16. He is also active in New Jersey gay community politics. The Arts and Entertainment producer is Jenni Olson, co-producer of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, curator of Homo Promo (a video collection of trailers of gay and lesbian-themed films), and author of a forthcoming comprehensive guide to lesbian and gay independent film and video. News producer is Greg Gordon, who has produced the award-winning National Public Radio program "This Way Out" for nearly a decade.

PlanetOut partners

PlanetOut is collaborating with a host of leading firms providing graphic design, Web implementation, and entertainment product development. The company's organic and distinctive interface and corporate identity have been created by Mark Crumpacker, president and CEO of Clement Mok Designs, the firm which designed the MSN user interface. Web site design and construction is being managed by Melissa Regan, president of Internet Media Services, Palo Alto, CA. The company's entertainment interests are represented by Creative Artists Agency, Beverly Hills, CA. Its legal affairs are the domain of Barry Tyerman, partner, Armstrong, Hirsch, Jackoway, Tyerman & Wertheimer, Century City, CA.

PlanetOut's advisory board of over 50 executives from technology, entertainment, and design firms, along with key leaders from community organizations, provide the privately held company with strategic planning, marketing and content development expertise.

"Until now, the World Wide Web has been primarily a publishing medium. We look forward to working with PlanetOut to use Netscape's technology to build a vibrant community, too," said Hugh Dubberly, Creative Director of Netscape Communications, and advisory board member of PlanetOut.

PlanetOut areas

PlanetOut will offer news, information and chat areas tailored to a wide range of lesbian and gay interests, falling under topical categories such as these, which are featured at launch:

-- Arts & Entertainment

-- News, Views & Action

-- ChatPlanet

-- Civic Center

-- Health, Sports & Fitness

-- Clubs & Interests

Arts & Entertainment

This area is home to film reviews by Elizabeth Pincus of Harpers' Bazaar; Queer Home Film Fest (video reviews), Shelf Life (current books area), music news and reviews. For its MSN launch, Vancouver-based Edwin Bernard interviews Wilson Cruz, teen star of "My So-Called Life," Rob Hooper, who covers the music scene for U, Edge, and The Advocate explores the new OutLoud CD featuring U2 and the Indigo Girls; and Christopher Kryzan of !OutProud! previews Linnea Due's new book, "Joining the Tribe, Growing Up Gay in the 90s."

News, Views & Action

This area features news of interest to a gay audience produced by the creative team behind "This Way Out," a weekly public radio news program. The area also offers opinion pieces by provocative thinkers and activists; The Other Side ("What They're Saying About Us"), which combines reports and opinions by those opposed to gay rights. There is also an area for members' discussion, surveys and action alerts.

Building community - ChatPlanet

In addition to rich information and news, PlanetOut offers members many opportunities to connect personally, in real time, with others in their town or across the world. Through the addition of Profiles (personal IDs including photos) and Personals (ads seeking friends and romance), online chat becomes a rich social exchange. The Community Center features distinctive message board-rooms named for heroes including Sappho, Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, and Gertrude Stein, in which gay men, lesbians, bisexual women and men, seniors, teens and others can all meet. Chat Cafe offers more intimate one-on-one conversation. Resorts and Neighborhoods bring a geographical element to the Planet, sporting names familiar to gay travelers the world over: Provincetown, Fire Island, the Castro, Le Marais, Mykonos, Amsterdam. Members can meet to get the lowdown on what to see and where to stay from kindred spirits, and also make new friends (and conquests) while traveling.

Civic Center

The Center is home to key gay and lesbian civil rights and educational groups, and features discussion, postings and calls to action. Ten organizations appear in Civic Center at launch:

-- Digital Queers

-- Frameline - Lesbian and Gay Independent Film and Video

-- Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund

-- GLAAD - Gays and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation

-- Human Rights Campaign Fund

-- International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

-- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

-- !OutProud!, The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual


-- PFLAG - Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays

-- YAO - Youth Action Online

Health, Fitness and Sports

Members visiting this area will find exercise and nutrition tips, women's health news, HIV and PWA news and discussion sites, safe sex education and information exchange, men's health concerns, and sports news. Of course, HF&S will also be home to all Gay Games news, past and future.

Clubs & Interests

A place to find the unexpected -- photos, audio clips, role-playing games. GayTrek, a Star Trek fan-zine, is located here, as is Project Voyager, an active campaign to fulfill creator Gene Roddenberry's dying wish: that gay characters be integrated into the Star Trek universe!

PlanetOut is a trademark of PlanetOut, L.L.C. The Microsoft Network is operated by Microsoft Corp. on behalf of Microsoft Network LLC.

Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.
 -0- 8/21/95

/CONTACT: Publicist Stephen Rivers, 310-395-2993,; or PlanetOut: Mary Salome, 415-252-6285,

CO: PlanetOut ST: California IN: CPR SU:

JP-VL -- LA036 -- 5802 08/21/95 12:09 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 21, 1995

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