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FreeLoader plans major upgrade

Web browser vendor FreeLoader is preparing to ship a major update of its software.

With the popular custom news service PointCast fixed squarely in its sights, "offline" Web browser vendor FreeLoader is preparing to ship a major update of its software next month.

Both PointCast and FreeLoader are Internet applications that automatically download personalized news and information, including stock quotes, weather reports, and sports scores. PointCast broadcasts information available from companies it has signed licensing deals with such as Reuters.

FreeLoader is planning on making a beta version of its new software available for both Navigator and Internet Explorer on August 12. As the company's name implies, the software is free.

Until now, FreeLoader users have searched the entire Net for content that fits the user's profile. But FreeLoader 2.0 will look more like PointCast, with information downloaded into 15 user-defined "channels," or categories of information. The software will also feature "premium" channels with information from partners, just like PointCast. Freeloader 2.0 is also adding a screen saver to display the headlines when the computer is not being used.

But unlike PointCast, users can also add specific sites to their list of locations searched regularly for news.

FreeLoader CEO Sunil Paul says that there will also be more detailed customization of content. "It is important for us to be able to bring a new level of sophistication to offline browsing in a way that wasn't possible before," Paul said.

On Monday, Freeloader announced an agreement with Macromedia under which the two companies will market each other's software. FreeLoader will be bundled with Shockwave, and the new version of FreeLoader will include Shockwave support.

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