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FreeLoader to release 2.0

FreeLoader, which lets users browse the Web offline, will allow downloading of multiple Web pages simultaneously in a new version of its software.

FreeLoader, which gives away software that lets users browse the Web offline, is expected to release version 2.0 of its software next week, adding a feature that will allow downloading of multiple Web pages simultaneously.

In beta since July, FreeLoader 2.0 also lets users create a personal "channel" that tracks their favorite Web sites. Frank Babbitt, FreeLoader's vice president of sales and marketing, said the product will be available from the company's Web site. About 75,000 users have registered with FreeLoader and 150,000 have downloaded the software, according to the company.

Now a subsidiary of online news service Individual (INDV), FreeLoader announced a partnership earlier this week with MSNBC under which MSNBC viewers can get a custom version of the 2.0 software directly from the news service's Web site.

The software works by downloading content from Web sites at night or in the background while a personal computer is being used for other tasks. That feature is particularly useful when downloading large multimedia files that take a long time. FreeLoader also allows users to specify which Web sites to check and how often.

FreeLoader sells advertising on 15 preconfigured "channels" on such topics as sports, family life, politics, or entertainment. Because files are viewed offline rather than on, advertisers can use TV ads with video and audio that would otherwise require a long download in real time. Advertisers include IBM and America Online's Web site hosting service.

Other players in offline Web browsing include PointCast, WebEx (formerly Milktruck Delivery), First Floor, and ForeFront Group's WebWhacker.

In future versions, Babbitt said, FreeLoader intends to add agent technologies that detect user preferences and serve as guides to Web sites likely to be of interest. Similarly, the company wants to deliver ads to users with specific interests. FreeLoader's offline service also will be integrated more closely with parent Individual's online content.