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August 5, 1996

`Webcasting' comes of age with new application

A group of former Microsoft Corp. managers will announce next week a breakthrough application that will allow almost any source of content to be transmitted selectively to groups of recipients using almost any medium, according to sources within the start-up company.

The new company, Cognisoft Corp., based in Redmond, Wash., is headed by David Weld, the former group manager of content for the Microsoft Network (MSN), and Ken Schneider, former MSN group product manager. The three other officers are the former development manager, program manager, and lead product marketing manager for MSN.

Unlike existing Web applications, which allow you to select from a finite menu of content ( being a prime example), Cognisoft's forthcoming product, IntelliServ, is designed to collect information from virtually any data source, whether an in-house corporate database or external services, such as Lexis/Nexis or the Internet.

The concept is neither "broadcasting," which sends the same content -- such as a TV channel -- to all recipients, nor is it "narrowcasting," which sends different, customized content to each individual -- such as MSN or, a news update service. IntelliServ is a new category, which I call "webcasting": automatically transmitting new information to directly affected individuals only.

The heart of IntelliServ, which will go into beta testing on Windows NT servers at large corporate sites in two to three months, is a data vocabulary that examines information for structured data, such as tags or subheadings. IntelliServ can automatically tell when an in-house or external document has changed and use its notification manager to alert members of a user directory of the new information.

The power of IntelliServ lies in the various media it can use to notify recipients.:

  • As you would expect, IntelliServ can send information to an individual as e-mail text or attachments.

  • IntelliServ can also display a pop-up alert on an individual's monitor, using the built-in pop-up functions of network client software.

  • A short text message can be displayed on a person's pager, briefly describing the new information and citing a location to look for the full information.

  • Notices and links to information can be displayed on a Web page that is tailored to groups or individuals. Other planned media include fax and hard copy.

    The implications of automating all of a company's internal and external sources of information and transmitting just the-need-to-know information to hundreds or thousands of individuals are enormous. Engineers around the world can be notified of changes to, for example, an airplane parts specifications manual. Stock traders can be paged when a certain stock hits a specified price. Changes to an ODBC database can be reflected in employees' or customers' e-mail or on their own Web pages.

    Many other developers, of course, are working on changing the Web from a pull model -- in which you must search for useful information -- to a push model, in which it comes to you. But with Cognisoft's lead time, and the advantage of its many Microsoft refugees, its announcement should set the pace of this product category for quite a while.

    Cognisoft Corp. is at (206) 702-0800 or (in a week or so)

    The Internet ate my homework

    The Windows 95 Character Chart that I made available for free on InfoWorld Electric in my July 1 column temporarily disappeared from the Web site for a few days. If you looked and couldn't download it, try it now at

    Brian Livingston is the coauthor of the new Windows 95 Secrets and author of three other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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    Copyright © 1996 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


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