And then there's Rohit's complaint that PointCast would tie up my phone
line for several days at a time until I finally wondered why I wasn't
getting any phone calls from him and turned my Win95 box off.
> With this shift in focus has come a shift in jargon. Suddenly push
> has become "knowledge management."
Vey eish mein.
> "It's a function of using the Internet," he said. "The opportunity for
> companies like Microsoft is to better filter out what you don't want."
Filtering and aggregation, forwarding and collation. Knowledge
management becomes more important every day.
February 16, 1998
Why 'Push' Got Shoved Out of the Market
By LAURIE J. FLYNN
As new technologies go, the promise was enormous: With a new category of
software known as "push" technology, the World Wide Web would finally
take its rightful place among money-making commercial media.
That was last year.
Today, many of the nearly two dozen start-ups that hoped to hit pay dirt
in the push market are gone, the few companies that have survived have
done so by reinventing themselves, and the flood of venture capital
pouring into companies developing push software has been reduced to a
"Push has gone from the most popular buzzword of 1997 and late 1996 to
something verboten on business plans," said Ross Rubin, an analyst at
Jupiter Communications in New York.
It is not necessarily that the thinking behind push was flawed. In
simplest terms, push refers to software that delivers Web information to
consumers, rather than forcing consumers to forage through the Web to
find it. The concept attracted considerable attention because many
people thought it was a solution to the most nagging problem of the Net:
Perhaps even more significant was that push offered advertisers a
familiar metaphor: It delivers information via regularly updated
"channels" that appeal to specific audiences.
In some cases, the push software sends a message to the user's screen
saying the information they requested has been downloaded automatically
for them, while in others it displays news headlines and other
information on a predetermined schedule throughout the day.
"This was an area that was seriously hyped," said David Dorman, who
recently became the chief executive of Pointcast Inc., perhaps the best
known company still standing behind push. "People were heralding it like
it was a cure for world hunger."
But despite all the noise, push has made little headway in its battle
for the hearts and minds of the average Internet user. Some early users
complained that having their computer automatically log onto the Net and
retrieve data on a predetermined schedule was obtrusive; others
complained that the filters employed by these programs were not smart
enough to sift the truly relevant information from the unnecessary.
Rather than helping to solve the problem of information overload, some
say push exacerbated it. And many others simply see a basic
contradiction between the concept of push and the interactivity of the
Web: Push renders the user passive, as with television.
"Push was a solution in search of a problem," said Kim Polese, chief
executive of Marimba Inc., which after an early period of trial and
error with push technology is now positioning itself as the provider of
a software distribution mechanism. "It was never clear consumers wanted
In a recent poll of readers of PC World Online, an online magazine, only
8 percent of respondents said they preferred to get information pushed
to them; the rest said they would rather use bookmarks or other
place-saving features of their Web browser programs. While some
analysts, and certainly some push companies, have criticized the survey
as lacking a broad representation of push users, the message is clear.
Yet many analysts say that at least in theory, the idea of aggregating
Web content and then delivering it to users makes sense -- if only for a
very small number of companies.
"Lots of push companies are out of business," said David Coursey, editor
of Coursey.com, a newsletter that covers the computer industry. "And not
just because people don't want it but because if it's all you do you're
not going to have a business."
But luckily for the few remaining developers, corporate customers may be
a better bet than individual users, who were initially seen as a major
target of push technology. Scores of companies, including FDX, Fidelity
and NationsBank, are paying substantial sums to the likes of Marimba,
Backweb and Pointcast to enable them to distribute company data, rather
than simply news headlines.
In some of these cases, corporations are distributing company
information via intranets, or internal corporate networks; in others,
they are using channels to communicate with outside sales forces and
With this shift in focus has come a shift in jargon. Suddenly push has
become "knowledge management."
That the business market is where push is most likely to gain a foothold
is a point not lost on Pointcast, still the most successful of the
companies that have been given the push label.
Preferring to describe itself as a broadcast information service,
Pointcast made an early decision to sell its products to corporate
information technology departments seeking a better and cheaper way to
distribute company news and business information to employees.
With Pointcast software, users can receive regular updated transmissions
of stock quotes, news and company data, like financial results. The
company has cut deals with newspapers and other information providers,
enabling the software to deliver only the specific information the user
As for the complaint that having information "pushed" to a screen can
seem as much a cause of information overload as a solution to it, Jusuf
Mehdi, director of marketing for Microsoft's Internet division, suggests
the answer lies in improved filters. "That's a problem that's not going
to go away."
"It's a function of using the Internet," he said. "The opportunity for
companies like Microsoft is to better filter out what you don't want."
No matter how much Jello you put in a swimming pool, you still can't
walk on water. And pool filters do not like Jello.