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Since its early days, users could make online purchases, make train reservations, check stock prices, search the telephone directory, and chat in a similar way to that now made possible by the Internet.
Millions of terminals were handed out free to telephone subscribers, funded by the government, resulting in a high penetration rate among businesses and the public. The use was sometimes pushed heavy-handedly: France Telecom would not give paper white pages to the owners of Minitel, since they were accessible for free on Minitel. France Telecom estimates that almost 9m terminals - including web-enabled PCs - had access to the network at the end of 1999, and that it was used by 25 million people (of a total population of 60 million).
In the late 1990s, Minitel connections were stable at 100m a month plus 150m online directory inquiries, in spite of growing Internet use.
In 1998, Minitel generated €832m832m ($824m) of revenues, of which €521m was channelled by France Telecom to service providers.
Minitel sales in the late 1990s accounted for almost 15% of sales at La Redoute and Les Trois Suisses, France's biggest mail order companies.
Minitel uses the telnet network protocol to access information on a remote server. Since telnet sessions are over an end-to-end telephone line connection, the security concerns present when using telenet over the Internet are not present.
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