Goodbye Minitel

Telecom>> virtual world • France

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

imageOn June 30, French telecom authorities switched off the groundbreaking Minitel service which had brought online banking, travel reservations and porn to millions of people a decade and a half before the world wide web.

Launched in 1982, Minitel owed much to President Valery Giscard d’Estaing’s technological leap. “The aim was to computerise French society and ensure France’s technological independence,” says Karin Lefevre of France Telecom. “Farmers often used Minitel for quick operations: calling an inseminator or a knacker, or informing us of a birth in their livestock. They typed a number and immediately had access to these services,” says Alain Bazire of the Chamber of Agriculture in the Ille-et-Vilaine region of Brittany.

But then came the world wide web. “To set up a service on Minitel, you needed permission from France Telecom which knew nothing about innovation,” says Lefevre. In 2010 the system brought in only 30 million euros. With 85 per cent of the revenue going to service providers, France Telecom decided the cost of maintaining the network was no longer worth it.

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