China Internet Corp (CIC) has launched a bilingual Web site tailored for Hong Kong's Web surfers and with which it hopes to pry dollars from Internet advertisers. Hongkong.com displays headlines linked to newspaper articles, weather data and entertainment information, such as movie listings. Much of this is recycled from a previous effort, The Corner, launched in 1996 by Web Connection, an SAR design firm. The Corner attracted few users and little advertising and was taken over when CIC bought Web Connection last year. Hongkong.com includes new features, including the Netscape Guide, a directory of sites and a free e-mail service. More than 21,000 users have signed up for an e-mail that ends in hongkong.com. Cheung Fai, the site's editor-in-chief, said this was evidence that local users wanted to join the on-line community being offered by Hongkong.com. This autumn, Hongkong.com users also will be able to click on to a global Web search engine from AltaVista. CIC agreed last month to pay an undisclosed licensing fee for the rights to the service's technology and brand name. Like its US counterparts, CIC aims to create a 'portal' - a full-service destination for Internet users that includes services like free e-mail, chat services, news information, and games. Companies such as Yahoo, Excite, Netscape and Microsoft hope that by keeping an Internet user on its Web site longer, the value of its piece of Web real estate will rise. Hongkong.com will compete for Hong Kong's advertising dollars with portals such as Netvigator and Hongkong Star Internet, but CIC claims already to have signed up 30 companies to advertise on the Netscape Guide portion of Hongkong.com. These include banner ads, which officially cost US$22 per thousand impressions - an impression denoting when a banner ad is downloaded and presumably viewed by a Web surfer. CIC officials acknowledged that some of the advertisements would be paid for through barter of services, rather than cash. Hongkong.com is the first of a series of Web portals CIC is readying. China.com will be aimed at mainland Internet users when it launches next month. Marlon Cheung, CIC's director of sales and marketing, said CIC also planned to launch a portal for Taiwanese Web users and city guides called Beijing.com and Shanghai.com. The portal strategy also signals that the Xinhua-controlled Internet company, founded in 1994, is overhauling its business model. The company reportedly had US$10 million in revenues last year, through a combination of subscription fees, Internet advertising, designing Web sites and setting up networks for companies. However, its heavily hyped China Wide Web - a costly information service aimed at mainland businesses - has attracted only about 1,000 subscribers since last year's launch. The CWW costs between US$30 and $340 per month for news and financial data from Reuters, Bloomberg, Xinhua, among others, but does not grant customers full connection to the Internet. That seemed an advantage when the mainland government's control over Web content was much stricter, but as Internet use booms - Beijing authorities have licensed more Internet service providers and upgraded networks for faster access. Alex Lanceley, CIC's media spokesman, said: 'Twelve months ago, CWW was totally business-oriented and a subscription-based intranet, because that was what made sense at the time. There was no profit in advertising, and no content. 'That business model may change. We have to react to what the customer wants.'