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Microsoft pushes standard

Internet World Internet "push" technology inches toward to a common standard to make tuning into Web broadcasts as easy as flipping TV channels.

Internet World LOS ANGELES--Internet "push" technology has inched a little closer to a common standard that could make tuning into Web broadcasts as easy as flipping TV channels.

On the eve of the opening of Internet World, Microsoft (MSFT) announced the channel definition format (CDF), a new technology that will make it easier for publishers to transmit their content over the Internet.

America Online, PointCast, AirMedia, and BackWeb all said they would support CDF in their push efforts.

Microsoft said it has submitted CDF to the World Wide Web Consortium for consideration as an Internet standard.

But in a sign that a single standard for Net broadcasting may not be imminent, Microsoft executives admitted that Netscape Communications, which is developing a push technology code-named Constellation, was not issued an invitation to join the group. Microsoft said it hopes Netscape would support CDF.

More than a dozen separate push technologies have cropped up on the Web in the past year, but they are all incompatible with one another. Unlike television, push technology has lacked a common standard that allows client software from different companies to tune into the same broadcasts. Push vendors fear that eventually the lack of interoperability between their products could impede the growth of the market.

CDF will not guarantee that information channels designed for the PointCast Network, for example, will work with BackWeb's client software. However, CDF could provide a basic level of compatibility between channels. Web designers can also spruce up their channels with a variety of extensions, such as dynamic HTML, Java, and ActiveX controls, that could hamper the broad channel compatibility.

According to the vendors supporting CDF, the technology will make it much easier for publishers to repackage their Web sites as channels. CDF is a text file that contains information about delivery times and other data, said Brad Chase, vice president of marketing at Microsoft.

"This opens up broadcast to anyone with a Web server," said Chris Hassett, chief executive officer of PointCast.

Microsoft also announced that it would include icons that allow users of its Internet Explorer 4.0 browser to receive content from several push networks, including AirMedia, BackWeb, and FirstFloor. Microsoft has already cut a similar deal with PointCast.