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Big Blue down to brass tacks

IBM creates an interesting alternative to hyperlinks that lets users fetch Web pages from one site without leaving another.

While hyperlinks have become an accepted way of navigating between Web sites, IBM (IBM) has created an interesting alternative that lets users fetch Web pages from one site without leaving another.

The software is part of collection of software components, code-named DataBolts, that will be announced at the LotusSphere conference in Orlando, Florida, later this month, according to a company spokesman. IBM's Lotus Development division also plans to announce support for a number of DataBolt components in its SmartSuite applications at the conference, according to sources.

The DataBolt technologies are part of IBM's effort to address the business concerns of commercial Web sites, such as protecting copyrights and increasing visitor traffic. The software is based on technologies originally developed for two IBM Web sites, infoMarket and the now defunct infoSage site. IBM is now repackaging the software so that independent Web developers can exploit the components simply by dragging and dropping icons from a palette onto their Web pages.

The DataBolt that is sure to capture the most attention is the Query and Retrieval component. The software is designed to eliminate the need to follow hyperlinks to a Web site in order to retrieve information from there. For example, a user could search for data on the Sun Microsystems Web site without ever leaving IBM's pages.

The DataBolt is designed to help Web sites maximize the amount of time a user spends on their sites viewing pages and, of course, advertisements. The software could raise some sticky issues if it allows Web sites to drain user visits away or take copyrighted materials from other sites without permission. But IBM representatives said today that the query and retrieval technology would only work with Web sites that consent to let others access their information.

The DataBolt works in contrast to search engines such as Yahoo and Excite that provide hyperlinks to information on other Web sites rather than the information itself. America Online will be among the first users of the query and retrieval DataBolt, according to IBM.

At LotusSphere, IBM will also show another DataBolt technology called cryptolopes. Cryptolopes are secure "envelopes" that contain information such as a magazine article or photograph, and they prevent the information from being opened by users unless they pay the publisher. The company will offer several new Cryptolope DataBolts, including Cryptolope Packer, Opener, and Registration.

Lotus plans on integrating Cryptolope DataBolts into its WordPro word processing application, according to sources. The technology will later be incorporate into other Lotus applications, such as Notes.

Additionally, IBM will announce two other DataBolts, including a news ticker that displays real-time news feeds from information sources and Profiler, an editor that allows developers to design Web sites that tailor their content for an individual user.

"The intention of DataBolts is to provide you with all the pieces to build content applications and integrate commerce into those applications," said Jeff Kay, cryptolope architect for IBM.

Kay added that the DataBolts will be offered as Java applets and ActiveX components. The company has not yet decided which ones it will post to its Web site for public access.