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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Internet

Chat system makes talk cheap

A start-up called DigitalFacades this month will roll out a new system for offering chat sites on the Web.

A start-up called DigitalFacades this month will roll out a new system for offering chat sites on the Web, promising a cheaper, quicker, and more user-friendly format.

Dubbed Xpound, this Web-based product for online forums is considered innovative because, unlike proprietary solutions, such as Lotus Notes or Newsgroups, it can run as an add-on to most any Web server.

It requires no software other than a Web browser, operates just like any other Web page and can incorporate graphics from Web sites. A feature called "cookies" allows sites to track users during their visits, an enticement to advertisers.

Xpound will be used for a chat site on a new movie called Extreme Measures, sources said. It will enable users to debate medical ethics, a central theme of the Castlerock film.

XPound also soon will be installed on a site called Hollywood Online, which focuses on the entertainment world.

Company executives wouldn't comment on possible future customers in a briefing this morning, but they said XPound already is being used by Game Fan Magazine and Lynx Golf, and the UCLA Center for Digestive Disease in a test version.

The commercial roll-out will take place August 15. Customers can download the software at XPound for a free 60-day trial. Different versions, depending on the features, will cost from $149 to $2,995.

The Web-based chat room field is getting crowded, however. Xpound's competition includes Podium 2.0, WebBoard, Web Crossing, and Workgroup Web, among others.

The privately held multimedia company, founded four years ago, develops Web sites, CD-ROMs, interactive kiosks, and other applications. Its customers include Acura, Epson America, Sony Electronics, Ketchum Communications and TBWA Chiat/Day Advertising.