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ARCHIVED  August 1, 1997

‘Push technology’ begins to tug at Internet surfers

Get ready for the big push.Push technology, in its many forms, allows push delivery of mostly Web-based information over the Internet.
The promise of this technology is the ability for users – you, your company, your customers – to define what information you want on a regular basis and get it without having to manually search for it or request it over and over.
It’s like having a favorite Web site automatically load when there is new information available, without having to type in the URL and go to that site to see if anything is new.
Once set up, push mechanisms work in the background while you are online, checking for new information and letting you know when it is available. This technology is touted as the solution to the “information overload” that exists on the Internet, where punching in a simple search can bring back a daunting number of possible sites to explore.
Some people are concerned about the repercussions of this technology, such as potentially hurting small Web sites because only the large content producers – Warner Bros., The New York Times, ESPN, CNN – can afford to become channels, leaving smaller sites in the unsearched wastelands of the World Wide Web.
Another concern is the potential for more-targeted “spamming” through the sale of channel subscription lists.
PointCast (www.pointcast.com), a news and information content provider, already furnishes personalized information right to your desktop. Simply download their software from their Web site, answer a lot of questions about the kind of information you want to receive and how often you want updates, and you’ll get it.
Lotto numbers, stock tickers, and industry news can all be downloaded in the background while you’re working at your computer.
PointCast, which claims to have the second busiest Web site on the Internet, reports that 70 percent of its users, or “viewers,” as they call them, are accessing information at work, through a direct connection provided by their company.
“Our target is the business consumer,´ said Jeanette Gibson of PointCast. “We are a news and information service, providing content from the leading providers.”
PointCast is what’s called a content aggregator, which means that all content is routed and channeled through its server, and then pushed out to viewers. It provides advertisers with a summary of activity, which content was viewed, which was not, and aggregate demographic information (age range, sex), without any identifying information about individual consumers.
Although viewers are required to register using their e-mail address, Jeannette Gibson of PointCast insists that “We are committed to protecting the privacy of our viewers.”
Many viewers use PointCast to track trends in their industry, check their stock holdings, check the latest sports scores.
BackWeb allows companies to develop channels to deliver any type of content, from Web sites to executable files both over the Internet or through a company Intranet.
For example, a software company could use it to send you updates to software you’ve purchased, or a company information services manager could use it to upgrade multiple computers in a company, all without disturbing the user.
BackWeb-created channels do this using “polite delivery,” in which the computer searches for new information in the background, without occupying large parts of your system.
Although you can download BackWeb’s platform directly from their Web site to view BackWeb channels, their primary market is selling their proprietary “channels” to companies that want to create a branded channel and use it for a variety of purposes, such as test marketing, electronic commerce, direct marketing, and Web-site audience generation.
Viewers subscribe directly with channel providers, using the BackWeb platform as their interface.
Netscape’s push platform, Netcaster, which will come bundled with Communicator, also has viewers subscribe directly with Web channel providers. Through co-marketing agreements, large providers, such as CNNfn, Wired, Money Magazine, CBS and ABC, are listed as the main channel providers when you load Netcaster.
Netcaster allows for “intelligent pull” of Web-based information. Platforms such as Netcaster can be set up to work over a company’s entire computer network, giving employers a new way to control what Web sites their employees have access to.
Once Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape releases Communicator, push delivery could be on your desktop, as both of these products include push-delivery components that allow you to set up delivery of Web “channels,” where you can subscribe to a site and get information updated automatically.
While this may make it easier to get regular updates on the latest Rockies game score, it may also mean that many more companies have access to your e-mail address to send you spam.

Get ready for the big push.Push technology, in its many forms, allows push delivery of mostly Web-based information over the Internet.
The promise of this technology is the ability for users – you, your company, your customers – to define what information you want on a regular basis and get it without having to manually search for it or request it over and over.
It’s like having a favorite Web site automatically load when there is new information available, without having to type in the URL and go to that site to see if anything is new.
Once set up,…

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