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White Pine helps users communicate

White Pine is helping their CU-SeeMe users reach out and find others to talk to.

White Pine Software, makers of the CU-SeeMe videoconferencing packages, are now helping their users reach out and find other CU-SeeMe users, the thinking being that the most sophisticated communication equipment doesn't do much good if you have no one to talk to.

CU-SeeMe lets users communicate over the Net, but only to users who have the same equipment. To help link all those users together, users of CU-SeeMe software will get their own Web directory in July on Four11, an Internet search service for email addresses, telephone numbers, and digital encryption certificates.

Users must use the enhanced CU-SeeMe, a version that the company estimates is used by anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million people. Users must also register to be listed with the Four11 service. Once registered, the user's CU-SeeMe address serves as the primary listing as well as a hot link that automatically places a call when clicked.

Search results do not indicate if a person is already online. Unlike telephone service, videoconferencers need to have their machines logged on to the service to receive a call. Registrants with the service can also list personal profiles and other information.

For the time being, users of other videoconferencing software will not be able to use Four11, but some of White Pine's competitors already have their own user directories. With close to 30,000 users, VDOnet's directory on their Web site shows who is currently using the company's VDOphone software and whether they can see video transmissions or only audio.

Cinecom, which has registered 44,000 users since December, is also working on proprietary directory software that would plug into a Web browser and should be available next month.

But an extensive directory for all video conferencing users isn't yet in the works. "The different software isn't interoperable, so there's no sense in a general directory," said Tony Zuccarino, VDOnet's director of marketing for conferencing.

Zuccarino, however, sees standards in place by 1998 that would allow all video conferencers to communicate, no matter what the software package, at which point a directory with the one-click call function would make more sense.

Standards or no standards, Cinecom president Skip Potter thinks a comprehensive directory now would be a great idea: "It's something we'd be real interested in doing," Potter said. "At least the [directory] could be segmented by product, and may the best product win."

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