March 17, 1997 10:00 AM ET
Push is on for CDF spec
Vendors embrace proposal for new Net delivery channel; PointCast, BackWeb, others jockey for broadcast rights
By Michael Fitzgerald and Stephanie LaPolla

  Information delivery vendors and online service providers are taking big steps to make push systems easier to develop for and access.

At Internet World here last week, more than 30 content providers lined up to support Microsoft Corp.'s proposed Internet broadcast standard CDF (Channel Definition Format). Following the announcement, PointCast Inc., BackWeb Technologies and America Online Inc. each unveiled upgrades to their respective services.

CDF, which Microsoft has submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium, promises to eliminate the need for multiple browsers, plug-ins or proprietary clients to receive pushes from information delivery vendors.

Version 2.0 of PointCast's namesake broadcast network, due in beta next month, includes a feature called Connections, which will leverage CDF to open the Santa Clara, Calif., company's broadcast model to any Web publisher.

With Connections, users who want to broadcast via PointCast can register at the company's Web site. The registration process defines what users want to broadcast, and PointCast sends the user an electronic button for its site. Visitors who click on the button automatically subscribe to PointCast. Built-in controls will let IT managers filter unwanted content.

"It opens up areas in their strategy that were a weakness for them" by turning its proprietary technology into a potential standard and opening up its channel to small and medium-size Web sites, said Steve Hess, president of Internet Strategies International, in Campbell, Calif.

BackWeb, another CDF backer, announced a series of software distribution partnerships that turns push technology into a medium for software distribution. The relationships will enable BackWeb to let users download software upgrades automatically in the background during times when the computer is on but idle.

Format support

Push client and server software developers backing the Channel Definition Format proposal:

  • AirMedia
  • BackWeb Technologies
  • CompassWare
  • Data Channel
  • Diffusion
  • First Floor
  • Freeloader
  • Ifusion
  • Lanacom
  • NETdelivery
  • NCompass
  • PointCast
  • Wayfarer

McAfee Associates Inc. distributes VirusScan upgrades via BackWeb. It is joined by Inbox Direct, a shareware and freeware distributor, and Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc., which will disperse driver upgrades through BackWeb, Expert Software Inc., Micrografx Corp. and others.

America Online shipped three products last week that will make navigating the Web easier. The first, AOL's NetFind, is a search engine for consumers. AOL Driveway will dial up AOL during off-peak hours, gather requested news and information and deliver it to the desktop for browsing at leisure. NetFind is available now; Driveway, which will support the CDF proposal, will be available in the summer.

Casablanca: America Online 4.0 is the next-generation AOL interface and also is scheduled for release in the summer. It includes streaming multimedia technology from VDONet Corp. for interactive graphics, sound and video. New features will include images in E-Mail, real-time chatting with AOL Phone and integration of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3.0.

As these products were released, the Dulles, Va., company struggled with a server outage that delayed E-mail delivery for days last week.

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