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Windows on the Web
New on the Net
Latest Browsers Bet on Push

-- by Amy Helen Johnson

All bets are on push, if the latest releases of the two leading browsers are any indication. Netscape Communicator 4.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 both feature built-in channel architectures. IE 4.0 content providers can use Microsoft's Channel Definition Format (CDF) specification to send information directly to the browser's Active Desktop. Netscape's desktop-delivery feature, dubbed Netcaster, brings similar capabilities to Communicator.

That's just the battleground. The ammunition will likely be the content being pushed, and the two competitors are hurling some heavy artillery. By early summer Microsoft had signed up more than a dozen business-oriented information sites, including The Wall Street Journal, Dun & Bradstreet and Forbes; Netscape had attracted the likes of Charles Schwab, Excite, ABC News and Women's Wire.

Both companies' channel technologies let intranet administrators and content providers create their own push content by piggybacking on existing Web elements such as HTML pages, Java and JavaScript. This represents a sharp contrast to the more proprietary push technologies of companies such as BackWeb and Marimba, which require expensive servers and changes to content before a channel is ready for broadcast. Acknowledging the 4.0 browsers' potential to accelerate demand, push companies have already struck deals with browser vendors. Marimba's Castanet technology will be integrated into Netcaster, and PointCast has become the first broadcaster to announce support for Microsoft's Active Desktop channels.

Industry leader PointCast recently unveiled plans for a corporate broadcast solution designed to let network administrators develop an internal company channel that will run side by side with PointCast's external news channels.

The success of this-or any other-strategy hinges on the emergence of a push standard. Microsoft has already pitched its push technology to the World Wide Web Consortium as a possible standard.


Windows Magazine, September 1997, page 246.

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