Browser Firms Check Out the Channel
Large and small software companies break new ground in web filtering, organizing and parental control
P> Several new developments in World Wide Web browser technology -- from off-line cataloging tools to filtering software -- are expected to offer resellers new account opportunities in the coming months, executives said.
The new technology follows an acquisition spree by Spyglass Inc., maker of the Mosaic browser.
The Naperville, Ill.-based developer has recently acquired OS Technologies Corp., Townsend, Mass., a maker of Web conferencing and forum technology, and SurfWatch Software, Los Altos, Calif., a purveyor of parental control and filtering software for the Web.
The Center for Naval Analysis is one federal customer using OS Technologies' WebNotes, a Web-based groupware and conferencing system. "Because it can handle large amounts of information, WebNotes is well-suited for on-line customer support," said Randy Pitzer, spokesman for Spyglass. "It can connect widely scattered people within an organization, communicate effectively with business prospects, partners and general discussion groups. It offers customers the ability to conference within an intranet or Internet."
The parental control software purchased by Spyglass also has potential for enterprise applications and also may be of interest to government customers.
"SurfWatch empowers users to choose which material they wish to receive," said Ann Duvall, president of SurfWatch. "SurfWatch and Spyglass technologies can now be leveraged in integrated solutions to corporate and Internet users."
At Internet World '96 in San Jose, Calif., one computer reseller indicated that such software, if properly positioned, could become "the bozo filter of the Web. You can use software to screen out unwanted e-mail. Now you can do the same for content on the Web."
Other, lesser-known companies in the browser field also introduced new technologies at the recent Internet conference. Oz Interactive Inc., Los Angeles, debuted its Oz Virtual VRML, or Virtual Reality Modeling Language, browser. VRML is a technology that many experts say will be needed to make animation seem real on the Web.
"Science fiction writers have been writing for years about people living in cyberspace, communicating and interacting with each other in on-line and social game environments," said Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson, CEO of Oz Interactive. "VRML is the way to make that world real on the Web."
Oz Interactive was formed in Iceland in 1990 by Gudjonsson, who was 18 years old. Resellers can preview a version of the beta product by downloading it from http://www.oz-inc.com.
"Equipped with a Pentium class PC and 14.4 Kbps or faster modem, users can add 3-D enhancements to their Web sites, including sound, speech engines, avatars -- or virtual humans, or virtual worlds for multiuser communication and interaction," said Gudjonsson. "These communications include text-based chat and file sharing. Users on enterprise networks or high-speed Internet connections can also conduct video and audio conferencing with the browser."
Hitachi announced its ZooWorks Internet Productivity Software, a product that automatically records and indexes each Web site a user visits and captures the data in an easy-to-tap personal index.
"This enables cybersurfers to organize and structure the information they access on the Web," said Geoffrey Bock, senior analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, an analysis firm in Los Angeles. "This goes considerably beyond bookmarks of Web sites."
Indeed, if one is surfing the Web and forgets the name of a site, ZooWorks will locate it instantly with a few keystrokes.
Instead of managing long lists of URLs, ZooWorks users can organize their URLs into folders for easier access. They can search by index, key words, a date or a range of dates. ZooWorks users also can share their URLs, cutting down the time they spend surfing for information.
"This is personal productivity software for the Web," said Ira Machefsky, vice president of GIGA Information Group. "Surveys show the two biggest problems Web users have is not being able to find a page they have previously visited and not being able to organize the pages they have found. ZooWorks goes a long way toward solving those problems."
The new tool, priced around $40, was developed during the last few months at Hitachi's Santa Clara, Calif., office, under the supervision of Korean officials at the company's headquarters.
A related tool, released by Bloomington, Minn.-based Iconovex Corp., is called WebAnchor.
This organizational tool creates hyperlinked back-of-the-book style indexes for RTF- and HTML-formatted documents found on the World Wide Web. WebAnchor, officials said, uses proprietary parsing technology based on syntax and semantics to analyze words and extract text.
The software is available through leading distributors and resellers, though the network is expanding, said Bart Davis, product manager.
Washington, D.C.-based FreeLoader Inc. also debuted a new Web browsing technology in recent weeks -- FreeLoader 1.0, the first off-line World Wide Web delivery service.
The software became available April 30 for download from FreeLoader's Web site, http://www.freeloader.com, as well as from its channel partners, Yahoo!, HotWired, ZDNet, InfoNet, Software.Net and GeoCities.
The formal launch follows a three-month public beta test.
"Consumer and industry reaction to our beta product has been" positive, said Sunil Paul, CEO and chairman of FreeLoader. "Beta testers have reported that FreeLoader significantly enhances their Web experience, eliminating the frustration associated with waiting to download complex graphics, audio and video files."
Interestingly, Netscape Communications Corp. did not debut any new software at the Internet World show, but instead chose to hype Netscape Navigator Gold, which was announced months ago.
It also was learned through interviews that Fijitsu is poised to release several new products crucial to developing the infrastructure of the Web in the coming months.
Contact: Iconovex at 800-943-0292, Spyglass at 708-245-6500, Oz Interactive at 213-938-7600, Hitachi at 408-986-9770 and Freeloader at 202-686-0660.