Sidewalk Sidelined?

YOU WOULD THINK that if anyone could figure out a way to make money from the Internet, it would be Bill Gates. So last summer, when Microsoft launched a local branch of its online entertainment watched the Web site scramble to adapt to the local climate. Word from the company is they're gearing up for yet another facelift. The newer version will scale back local content in favor of outside sources; its focus will be more directory-oriented, attempting to capture some of the advertising dollars that newspapers and the Yellow Pages currently monopolize.

But will Sidewalk ever be "the one that gets used?" Not according to Bill Bass of Forrester Research, a Boston-based firm that helps determine the effects of technology on business. A frequent guest on NPR's All Things Considered, Bass is an expert on this fusion of directories and entertainment guides by other online magazines such as City Search. His new year's prediction: Sidewalk will shut down this year or next because it's losing too much money; similar sites, such as America Online's Digital City, will soon follow.

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