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Web applet draws eyeballs

To many people, surfing the Net is so slow it's more akin to dog-paddling. That's why Peak Technologies is getting a lot of attention at Comdex this week by promising to make surfing much faster.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada--To many people, surfing the Net is so slow it's more akin to dog-paddling.

That's why Peak Technologies got a lot of attention at Comdex this week by promising to make surfing much faster. It's showing off a $29.95 Java application called Peak Net.Jet, which it calls a "turbocharger for the Internet."

The applet works with Web browsers to increases the speed of downloading new sites and improving modem performance.

"This Web accelerator makes faster browsing accessible to everyone, regardless of modem speed," said Peak Technologies President Doug Foster. "We're getting a lot of response."

The idea behind the technology is relatively simple. While viewing a Web page, the software automatically starts downloading all text and graphics of each link shown on the page. That saves a lot of time when you're ready to click to the next link.

This is not dissimilar to how the so-called offline browsers work, but offline browsers typically work best for users that visit the same Web pages every day, whereas Peak Net.Jet works with randomly chosen sites. "We're not trying to replace the offline browser," Foster said. "We're a real-time application."

The company's booth at Comdex is one of the most crowded on the showroom floor. Executives said consumers are downloading the software from Peak Technologies Web site at about ten times the rate that was expected.

Foster, a former executive with Unisys, and his team of 12 engineers started working on the product last spring after a focus groups identified "performance," meaning speed, as its number-one concern.