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Netscape points to Compass

The company evangelizes its lineup of Internet server and client products and provides a glimpse into the future.

SAN JOSE, California--Netscape Communications (NSCP) evangelized its current lineup of Internet server and client products today and provided a glimpse of the future.

In a keynote address by Netscape senior vice presidents Eric Hahn and Richard Schell at its Internet developer conference here, the company publicly demonstrated for the first time a new server, code-named Compass, for delivering personalized information.

The company first announced Compass as part of a white paper on its next generation of Internet client and servers--known as Mercury and Apollo--that it posted on the Net last March.

In addition to basic search engine capabilities that let users scour sites for data, Compass is designed to monitor email, Web sites, newsgroups, and other information sources for data that is relevant to a user's interests. When it finds the data, Compass can dispatch it to users in one of several ways--via email, a personalized Web page, or a pushed Netcaster "channel."

The idea behind Compass is an old one in the high-tech industry. Cutting through the glut of online information with intelligent agents or filtration mechanisms has been a Holy Grail of software makers, including companies like General Magic and Firefly, though the technology rarely works as well as advertised. A number of news sites, including CNN's Custom News, are also attempting to deliver personalized information.

"Lowering your cost of ownership will be as much about managing content and information" as it will be about managing applications, Hahn said.

Netscape licensed some of the technology that powers Compass from Verity and Grapevine.

"There was no ooh and ahh," said Michael Goulde, a vice president at the Patricia Seybol Group consultancy. "Compass is a logical extension of what's already out there today."

Although it remains unclear how Netscape can improve on filtration technologies being developed by other companies, Compass is bound to have an impact if it ships as part of the Netscape's broader line of servers, Goulde added.

Hahn wouldn't provide further details on Compass. Previously, Netscape has said that it would ship Compass early next year.

Today, Hahn and Schell placed the most emphasis on Communicator and SuiteSpot 3.0, products that the company shipped this week. The two demonstrated a number of intranet applications that use the messaging, Web, and directory features of the products.