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Push logic - sorry wrong metaphor

With forthcoming developments in browsers, a lot of emphasis is being put on what is called "push logic": the ability to deliver formatted information to your desk top. Currently those using Netscape's Navigator 3.0 can sign up to receive regular fully-formatted messages via their e-mail. All of a sudden their e-mail page looks just like a Web page with links and frames, forms and Java. This can be an excellent means to inform people of new material on a site and to invite them to come and get the full story. As an extension to the Web, it can be dealt with when the reader chooses and it leaves him or her free to follow up a link or not.

Isn't it amazing how people harp back to older, more familiar paradigms despite the narrowing down of perspectives this entails. In a recent CNET article, Push comes to shove, Nick Wingfield states that with push logic ... Web sites are no longer Web sites, but "channels" more akin to television or radio. The new metaphor may radically change the nature of Web content publishing. But doesn't the use of this metaphor mislead us? What characterises broadcast media like TV is that they are a continuous stream of self-contained content. Almost all that pertains to the stream is contained within it. So unless the plan is to reduce your computer to a TV set - which might please those who can't grasp any other logic than broadcasting -, extensions to Web publishing will always refer to other content on the Web. There is another fundamental difference between broadcasting as epitomised by TV and how you use your computer, the former has one specific use whereas the latter has a number of different complex functions. A continuous or intermittent flow of content onto your desk top only makes sense if you are going to pay attention to it. A flash indicating that new e-mail has arrived might not disturb you, but how distracting it could be to be assailed by complex attention-demanding content when you are trying to do a quite different activity.

Alan McCluskey, Saint-Blaise.

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Created: November 22nd, 1996 - Last up-dated: November 22nd, 1996