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Latest broadcast push: email

Look: no special software. An email client and a Java-enabled browser is all you need to sign on to a new Web page delivery service.

Although not often thought of as a "push" technology, email is becoming a popular way of automatically delivering Web pages to users.

Today, US Interactive introduced Digital Bindery, the latest service to broadcast Web pages over email, a departure from the the specialized servers and clients used by competitors PointCast, Marimba, and Wayfarer.

Although they use different techniques to transmit pages to users, Digital Bindery and other Web broadcasting technologies have the same aim: to free users from the hassle of trekking out to Web sites and finding the latest news headlines, sports scores, or stock updates.

Users must sign up for Digital Bindery on a special Web site; the service delivers Web pages during the night.

"The publisher doesn't have to buy any software from us," said Kevin Henderson, director of business development at US Interactive. "As long as you have an email client and Java-capable browser you can use Bindery."

Henderson said that US Interactive plans to make money by selling advertisements that will be displayed on email attachments. The company also plans on eventually selling demographic information about users to Web sites.

PointCast and other technologies are designed to deliver "pushed" Web information, but the solutions require users to download new software. Most Web sites are not widely available for broadcast delivery because publishers need to sign up for the services or buy software.

Now some companies are trying to combine the best of email and the Web so that users can receive pages simply by checking their in-boxes. Digital Bindery closely resembles the In Box Direct program from Netscape Communications, a service that delivers Web pages, including HTML text, graphics, and Java applets, to users of Netscape Navigator's built-in email software.

Netscape has signed up a number of information providers for the service, including the New York Times, CNN and in an announcement today, the Wall Street Journal. But any publisher can deliver Web pages independently to users.

Netscape's service, however, requires that users run the Navigator email software. Digital Bindery thinks it can find a niche with users who want to receive pages via other email packages such as Eudora or cc:Mail. Digital Bindery sends Web pages from any site to users as an email attachment. By clicking on the attachment, a Java applet will automatically launch a user's Web browser and display the pages.