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Yahoo pushes channels on users

Veteran Yahoo takes high-tech road; the fledgling Mining Company employs humans. Their common goal is to help users navigate the Internet.

Net companies continue lining up to tackle the Sphinx's riddle of the Net: how to make it navigable.

Today, Yahoo (YHOO), a clearly established Internet leader, announced that it will be delivering its content, organized into channels, to users' desktops using BackWeb's push technology.

Web start-up The Mining Company said in a separate announcement that it has found a solution to making the Web more navigable by marrying technology with actual people.

Yahoo's BackWeb Channel Guide will allow Netizens to receive "Yahoo InfoFlashes," providing them with periodic updates, much in the same way that PointCast delivers news in the form of interactive screensavers.

"Yahoo is ideally positioned to continue to be the place users go to find relevant and entertaining information and content," Jeff Mallet, senior vice president of business operations said in a statement.

But The Mining Company, like a lot of other players, also aims to be the place Netizens go first when they want information.

The Mining Company will feature 4,000 separate Web sites run by Netizens who have demonstrated special interests in the particular areas that they're hosting.

The company identified 1,800 must-have topics, such as advertising, Net culture, and pro basketball, according to Scott Kurnit, CEO of General Internet, the holding company for The Mining Company. Topics were chosen based on research of search engines, libraries, newsgroups, and other sources. Kurnit, formerly with Prodigy, was until a year ago in charge of the failed MCI/News Corporation online venture that resulted in iGuide.

For the next two months, The Mining Company will seek out hosts for those and 2,200 other unspecified sites; the venture will be up and running some time in April. Primarily, the company is looking for people who already have set up Web sites but are seeking more traffic.

In exchange for serving as a "guide," the hosts get $250 a month or 40 percent of the ad revenue sold on their pages--whichever is greater, Kurnit said. Hosts write columns, sit in on chats, respond to email, and constantly update the sites.

The company, in turn, gets a relatively inexpensive labor force working on commission.

Kurnit acknowledged that his company is far from the first to try to pare down the Net into bite-sized chunks. But he's convinced his idea will work because it's based on people--and a strong revenue model.

"The consumer has said search engines return too much," he said. "The real agents are humans."