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Windows on the Web
-- by James E. Powell
Vendors providing news via the Web have come up with a new idea. It involves "pushing" news and other information directly to your desktop.
There's a good reason for this. Innovators such as PointCast garnered headlines of their own for bringing news right to the desktop (see the feature in this section), but they created their share of bad news as well; the dramatic increase in traffic clogged ISPs and internal networks alike. (In PointCast's case, its addition of I-Server, which enables corporations to broadcast company news, as well as 10 "public" networks to which customers can subscribe, has helped a little.)
Seattle-based Intermind's Intermind Communicator alerts you to changes at subscribed sites through headlines only. If the headline interests you, just click on it; your Internet connection is established (for dial-up customers), and your browser displays the full story, which resides on the Web, not your hard disk. Because you're likely to view only a few stories in depth, Intermind's transmission of just 5KB to 10KB of data per channel means you aren't downloading data you won't view.
Lanacom's HeadLiner, meanwhile, takes a slightly different approach. After you specify your interests, HeadLiner links you to sites it has specifically selected. The service then monitors each site, using its corresponding Content Agent, which understands the site's structure. Like Intermind Communicator, HeadLiner displays a page of headlines with jumps to the full story on the Web.
Finally, while services such as PointCast offer a limited number of channels, companies like Intermind and Lanacom have no such constraints. Intermind's Publishing Wizard lets news providers create their own channel. Lanacom's Headliner Professional Edition, due shortly, will allow you to create your own agent for any Web site.
As Internet expansion continues to outpace bandwidth capacity, look for the "push" model to become increasingly popular.