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Start-up sees browsers' future in 3D

A small software development company is testing a 3D browser in an effort to replace the traditional models, betting that it will attract Net surfers.

    A small software development company is testing a 3D browser in an effort to replace the traditional models, betting that it will attract Net surfers.

    Pennsylvania-based 2ce said it launched a beta version of its 3D browser, dubbed CubicEye, earlier this week at the annual Demo conference. The CubicEye displays Web pages in a cubelike form, letting viewers see multiple screens as though they're looking at the inside walls and bottom of an open box. The browser is built for simultaneous interaction with multiple Web sites and applications.

    "Our main mission is to help people deal with information overload, and organize them into a form that they can easily address and remember," said 2ce Chief Executive Mike Rosen.

    The launch comes as Web developers create innovative browsers that promise to let people surf the Web more efficiently than the bigger, well-known browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer or AOL Time Warner's Netscape Navigator.

    Norway-based Opera Software, for example, has created what the company says is "the fastest browser on earth." The browser is compact, fast-loading, and can run on a variety of operating systems. NeoPlanet plans to release a Mozilla-based browser that will compete with Netscape's newest browser, which was also built on the open-source development group's code.

    2ce, which launched in April 2000, says its technology is easy for people to use and understand. The CubicEye can be customized, for instance, to create a cube of online newspapers and magazines or a cube of e-retailers. A person can zoom in and out as well as rotate the cube in any direction.

    Rosen said the benefit to 2ce's browser is that it lets people interact with a large number of Web sites that can be viewed at the same time as opposed to opening multiple browsers and minimizing them. If someone wants to purchase a book, for example, that person could open several e-tailers and do some comparison shopping.

    Analysts, however, said that 2ce's technology is not groundbreaking.

    "It's a clever way to get five different Web pages on one screen," said Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix. But "it's not the most innovative or the biggest breakthrough in navigation that I've ever seen."

    Pidgeon said that for a browser to work, it shouldn't frustrate people. He said browsers should provide people a way to navigate quickly and efficiently to get the information they want; otherwise, they'll go somewhere else.

    "For some people, (the CubicEye) might work," Pidgeon said. But "it doesn't particularly appeal to me...it doesn't look like 3D to me. It's just more windows...I'd rather have just one page and scroll through it."

    2ce's Rosen counters that the browser provides a way to organize the Internet without ever having to type a Web address. He said that the company's initial targets would be consumers such as market analysts and professionals who have to deal with large amounts of data. He added that families could benefit from the technology for services such as online chat rooms and shopping.

    Rosen said 2ce hopes to make money by selling software development tools to Web authors who want to create content that takes advantage of the browser. He said that their real revenue would come from strategic partnerships with software companies or those who want to license their technology, among others.

    "This is the visual interface for the Information Age," Rosen said. "It puts the consumer in control."