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Minitel lives on

Article published on the 2009-02-11 Latest update 2009-02-11 10:53 TU

The minitel directory assistance is still accessed over a million times a month.(Photo: Laurent Berthaul)

The minitel directory assistance is still accessed over a million times a month.
(Photo: Laurent Berthaul)

Plans to end directory assistance by the French precursor of the internet, minitel, have been shelved because it is still widely used. The minitel is a French video-text technology introduced in 1982. It could be used to book tickets, check stock prices and look up phone numbers and addresses. Today, the 3611 directory assistance is its main service, and is still accessed over a million times each month.

"If we end this service abruptly in March, as we planned, it’s likely that we would still have over a million connections a month, which is a lot,” Michel Datchary, CEO of PagesJaunes, the company that runs the directory service, told the AFP news agency.

The 3611 service was accessed over 19 million times in 2008.

France Telecom and PagesJaunes had announced in July that they would stop offering the 3611 directory service in March 2009, because it was losing 50 per cent of its users each year.

Minitel was launched with great hopes of a high-tech revolution and the post office gave terminals free to anyone who wanted one. But it has been eclipsed by the internet and ending the directory service would signal its impending death.

Those who still use minitel today are not very web-savvy, according to Datchary, and may never start using the internet. It’s a “pretty loyal group”, he said.