Subject: Push Technology: What is it and how it is used on the Net now.
          PUSH! : Are Your Web Browsing Days Over?

     Patrick Crispen, InterNIC Information and Education Services

                        Even before the recent announcement that
                        Intermind ( may soon
                        receive the patent rights to the "channel
                        communications" portion of push technology,
                        push technology has been one of the hottest
                        topics on the Internet. But what exactly is
                        "push technology" and can it make Web browsing
                        as we know it obsolete?

    Imagine that the Internet is a giant collection of magazines. There
    are two ways that you can find and receive only those magazines that
    contain information on the topics that interest you. You can go to
    the magazine stand in person and physically search through pile
    after pile of magazines that don't interest you just to find the few
    that do, or you can bypass the magazine stand altogether, subscribe
    to a couple of magazines, and have those magazines delivered
    directly to your mailbox.

              Push technology is very much like a free version of
    magazine home delivery. Simply put, push technology automatically
    delivers information through channels which are delivered directly
    to your desktop throughout the day. Think of channels as magazines;
    they can contain news, sports scores, stock information, and even
    links to other places on the Internet where you can find more
    information on a particular topic. According to Drummond Reed, the
    co-founder of Intermind, "with client-pull technologies like the
    Web, you have to actively go out and get the information that you
    are looking for. With push technology, the information that you want
    is automatically delivered to you. Push is much more proactive."

    How does push technology work? Most push technology content
    providers require you to give them a few pieces of personal
    information, for example, where you live, the names of your favorite
    sports teams, what stocks you follow, and other areas of interest.
    The push content provider then enters this information into a
    "server-side" database (a "server side" database is a database that
    is kept on one of the push content provider's computers, or
    "servers"). The push content provider then uses this database to
    determine what information you might be interested in and when they
    should send that information to you.

    Most businesses already use push technology and don't know it.
    Through e-mail, probably the most widely used push technology
    around, businesses keep in contact with their customers, telling
    them about sales, important events, upgrades, and anything else that
    might be relevant. Businesses can create customer e-mail lists using
    nothing more than a simple e-mail program like Eudora or P-Mail, or
    they can use large, commercial mailing list manager programs like
    L-Soft's LISTSERV (

             One of the innovators in the new generation of push
             technology is PointCast (
    Launched in February of 1996, the PointCast Network is a free,
    advertiser-supported information browser and screen-saver that
    provides up-to-the-minute national and international news, stock
    information, industry updates, weather, and sports scores. Once you
    download PointCast's free software, PointCast's running ticker will
    provide you with the latest stock quotes and sports scores, and its
    news content can be updated several times a day.

    Best of all, PointCast allows you to completely customize their
    service to show only the information that interests you. You can
    even choose how often PointCast updates its news content, and you
    are given the opportunity to receive news from a variety of major
    sources, including CNN (and the other news organizations in the
    Time/Warner family), Reuters, The New York Times, Wired, and ZDNet.

    After Dark (, creator of the
    popular "flying toasters" screen saver, also offers a free
    push technology software package called "After Dark Online." Much
    like the PointCast Network, After Dark Online is a collection of
    customizable screen savers that display the latest news and
    information from news organizations including Sports Illustrated
    Online, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and E! Online.

             BackWeb ( also pushes the latest
             news and information to your desktop, but unlike PointCast
    and After Dark Online, BackWeb's free software can also push
    multimedia audio/video files and software updates directly to your
    hard drive. Several major software manufacturers, including the
    Internet Explorer division of Microsoft and anti-virus software
    manufacturer McAffee, now offer BackWeb channels which automatically
    tell you when a new version of their software is available and
    automatically downloads that update to your computer.

    Like PointCast and After Dark Online, BackWeb can display its news
    and information as a screen saver. One of BackWeb's unique features,
    however, is that instead of having a scrolling news ticker, BackWeb
    uses "InfoFlashes," small, animated graphics that display the latest
    news in an unused area of your desktop or at the bottom of your
    screen. BackWeb is also ideal for intranets (internal, corporate
    networks) because, thanks to BackWeb's administration and
    connectivity features, it allows anyone on your internal network who
    has a browser to push content to rest of your company.

    Marimba's Castanet ( is an example of how
    Java can be used in push technology to automatically distribute,
    manage, and update network applications and information
    across different platforms and networks. Recently Castanet
    was expanded with the addition of Castanet Update Now. It manages
    both Java and non-Java languages. Each of Castanet's channels are
    individual applications developed in the most popular development
    languages such as C, C++ and Microsoft's Visual Basic that are
    pushed to your computer. These applications, which are developed by
    content providers around the world, can do pretty much everything
    from showing you the latest headlines to downloading the latest
    software on your company's network.

    Not all examples of push technology require you to download special
    software, though. InfoBeat ( is a free,
    customizable news service that delivers its content to you via
    e-mail (either in plain ASCII format, or in HTML for people who use
    Netscape 3.0+, HotMail, RocketMail, or WebTV as their e-mail
    reader). InfoBeat has seven sections - finance, sports,
    entertainment, news, snow reports, weather, and reminders - and you
    get to choose the information that you want and when you want to
    receive it.

    One of the best and most popular examples of e-mail based push
    technology is 'Netscapes' "In-Box direct"
    ( If you have a POP3 account (an
    e-mail account that lets you download your e-mail onto your own
    computer and then read that mail off-line) and if you use Netscape
    3.0 or later to send and receive e-mail, you can use In-Box direct
    to sign up for free news services that will be pushed to your e-mail
    box every day. In effect, each of these news services will e-mail
    you a Web page, complete with graphics and working links that you
    can view in Netscape's mail program. Current In-Box Direct content
    providers include CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, People
    Magazine, TV Guide, Business Week, National Geographic, CNET, and
    The Financial Times (London).

             The newest frontier of push technology, however, is the Web
             browser front, with both Netscape Communicator and
    Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4 currently offering built-in push
    technology in their latest Web browsers. Both Netscape and Microsoft
    support "Web casting," a technology which enables you to subscribe
    to certain information channels which are then pushed to your
    computer throughout the day. Because these information channels are
    pushed directly to your desktop, you no longer have to surf the
    Internet for information that interests you. Nor do you even have to
    be connected to the Internet when you view these channels (the
    channels are pushed to you when you are connected to the Internet,
    and then you are free to browse these channels off-line).

    What does the future of push technology hold? According to
    Drummond Reed, "the first generation of push technology is only the
    tip of the iceberg." Push is currently being used as an efficient
    means to deliver information. Reed sees a future, however, where
    push technology will "fundamentally be a solution to information

    Reed believes that the current problem lies with having to
    personally filter the information that we encounter on the Internet.
    "You currently do all of the filtering yourself," he says. However
    he also notes that the current version of push has only delivered
    more information without adding more control. According to Reed, the
    next generation of push technology will offer "intelligent channels
    with an evolving topic list" that will give the user complete
    control over the entire information stream.

    Instead of having customers visit a corporate Web site only to have
              to hunt for relevant information, push technology holds the
              promise of allowing businesses to push that relevant
    information directly to the customer. The end result is that the
    customer may be able to bypass the Web altogether.

    Can businesses take advantage of this technology today? Absolutely!
    Just contact one of the current push technology content providers -
    PointCast, After Dark Online, BackWeb, Marimba, InfoBeat, Netscape,
    or Microsoft - and ask them how their product can help you meet your
    company's goals.

    The current generation of push technology automatically delivers
    information - news, stock quotes, sports scores, advertising - to
    your desktop. With the amount of information on the Internet growing
    exponentially every day, and with time being the scarce commodity
    that it is, push technology has the potential to radically change
    the way that everyone uses the Internet.

    Will push technology supplant Web browsing, though? Only time will

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