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Reuters, Netscape spin new Web

Netscape Communications and Reuters announce a deal to provide real-time information to the financial community over a private network called Reuters Web.

Netscape Communications and Reuters today announced a deal to provide real-time information to the financial community over a private network called Reuters Web.

As previously reported by CNET, the deal is a big customer win for Netscape, especially in terms of its effort to sell more software to corporate customers. There are as many as 300,000 of the Reuters terminals in use worldwide.

For Reuters, the pact is a way to upgrade its terminals to compete with aggressive competition from Bloomberg, which recently has signed up many of Reuters' former customers.

Netscape CEO James Barksdale and Reuters America CEO Michael Sanderson announced the agreement today in San Francisco.

"Reuters, like most companies, can't dictate what users run on their desktops," Barksdale said today. "They may be running on Windows 95, on Windows 3.1, or on Unix."

"You can have one common interface to a whole variety of applications," Barksdale said.

Reuters Web represents the latest example of an "extranet," a private wide area network based on Web technology that is sealed off from the public Internet. In recent weeks, Netscape executives have begun vigorously promoting extranets as a new business trend that will help link together disparate, local area intranets.

The new network will be used to deliver information, such as news, historical data, and equities and fixed income research, to Reuters financial services clients through Netscape Web browsers. The Web-based information services will be offered as part of the Reuters 3000 Series of financial information services.

Reuters is not shifting its information services to Web browsers completely though. The core of Reuters 3000 is a specially-designed Windows NT application that allows financial data analysis. Eventually, the company expects to move more of its application entirely inside of the Web browser using technologies such as Java.

But it's not ready to do so yet. "It's a migration issue," said Graham Albutt, chief information officer at Reuters. "The way that we're going is entirely browser-centric."

Netscape clearly hopes that Reuters and other customers will eventually contain all of their applications inside of the browser. One of the primary advantages of browser-based programs is that users on more platforms can access the applications, said Jim Barksdale, president and CEO of Netscape.

The upgrade affects a product line known as Reuters 2000, a line of terminals and proprietary software mainly aimed at stock and foreign currency traders who use them to get real-time quotes and other up-to-the-minute information.

Sources said that the Reuters terminal could later be upgraded to let users download information from servers outside the Reuters proprietary realm, such as breaking sports news. In March, Reuters made a minority investment in SportsLine USA, an online service dedicated to sports information and entertainment.