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PointCast fortifies "push" lead

The push software pioneer signs up more than 1,000 companies to broadcast information using its software.

PointCast announced today that it has signed up more than 1,000 companies since last month to broadcast information using its software, a move that will likely fortify its position as a leading "push" technology provider.

The company has cut a deal with Excite to provide a directory for sifting through the new channels. The Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC) said that it will rate the new channels so that information systems managers can screen out sexually explicit or violent content.

The move, reported yesterday by CNET NEWS.COM, follows the announcement last month of PointCast Connections, the company's first effort to open its push technology to any and all publishers. Currently, all information channels on PointCast's network are limited to publishers like the New York Times and CNN, which have struck advertising revenue-sharing deals with PointCast.

But Connections, a feature of the forthcoming PointCast 2.0 client software, will function as a public access channel through which any Web site can broadcast information. PointCast 2.0 is due for beta testing in the second quarter, according to Melissa Porter, product marketing manager.

Because Connections will be open to any public broadcaster, PointCast has signed up RSAC to rate channels based on four criteria: language, violence, sex, and nudity. Systems managers will be able to configure those ratings that are acceptable for their companies. PointCast said it will not censor content itself.

"We have stepped out of the loop," Porter said. "IS managers will be able to select RSAC ratings that they feel comfortable broadcasting within their company."

Among the more than 1,000 publishers that have signed up to broadcast over Connections are Inc., Worth, Encylopedia Britannica, and Knight-Ridder New Media. PointCast's deal with Excite will allow PointCast users to search through the various channels to locate information relevant to their tastes.

PointCast has allied itself closely with Microsoft on a push technology proposal called channel definition format, which will make it relatively easy for ordinary Web sites to broadcast content. Netscape Communications will also let any Web site broadcast content with Netcaster, the push feature of its Communicator Internet software, though Netscape opposes CDF.

Netscape and Microsoft are arriving relatively late to push technology, which allows publishers to transmit news headlines, sports scores, and other information automatically to users rather than requiring them to trek out to Web sites. Nonetheless, the companies will put considerable competitive pressure on PointCast.