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Net heavyweights push caching proposal

Inktomi, Microsoft, RealNetworks, and Sun submit a protocol that would automate the way in which clients locate cached content.

Four Internet technology heavyweights have teamed up to standardize a key part of the Web caching process.

In a draft submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force, Inktomi, Microsoft, RealNetworks, and Sun Microsystems proposed the Web Proxy Autodiscovery Protocol (WPAD), which automates the way in which clients locate cached, or stored, content on the Internet.

Network caching reduces bandwidth demands and speeds the flow of information on the Internet by housing frequently accessed information geographically closer to the "client" than to the server where the information originated.

In early implementations of caching, end users had to manually configure their browsers to locate network caches. Currently, those caches connect to routers and switches, network hardware devices that automatically route the traffic. But WPAD would allow Internet service providers to use caches without having to tie them to those routers and switches.

Submission to the IETF does not guarantee that the standards body will take up the proposal. But WPAD, one of many caching proposals before the group, is the subject of one IETF memorandum.

Microsoft is supporting the protocol in its current beta version of Internet Explorer 5. The software giant also posted a version of the WPAD draft--now expired--to the Web.

RealNetworks will support WPAD in upcoming versions of the RealSystem G2 product line.