Steven Carlson on Mon, 5 May 1997 12:51:36 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Connected: Push This

Dear Nettimers -

I'd like to volunteer this Connected column for Z K P 4. I'm based in Budapest and write for a general audience, including business users. I mostly write about the development of the internet medium, from a business and user perspective.

Have Fun

  Connected: Push This
  by Steven Carlson; 5/5/97

  Push technology promises to revolutionize the way we use the
  Internet. It probably will, but not in the ways the Push prophets
  tell us.

  Push is the latest fad in an industry obsessed with the New. Push
  gives technology journalists something to write about. Push pleases
  traditional media companies and advertisers, because it makes the
  Internet sound more well behaved, more like a medium they already
  understand and love: television. According the prophets, Push fixes
  the limitations of today's internet as an advertising medium, and
  paves the way for the Great Convergence of the net with television.

  The World Wide Web is a pull medium. Each time you view a web page,
  you actually "pull" the data from a web server across the net. Pull
  means you wait. Pull also requires you to make a conscious decision
  each time you visit a site. Media companies don't like pull media;
  they want captive audiences and stable demographics.

  Push effectively sends the "web site" to your desktop while you
  sleep. Unlike the web, with push publishing you don't have to wait
  for files to download. Once you subscribe to a push channel, the
  publisher's server sends you updates, as often as required, during
  off hours. This could make Push an ideal vehicle for publishing
  frequently updated information, such as sports scores, news briefs,
  financial figures, and particularly software.

  Another attractive feature of Push, in the mind of publishers, is
  that viewers can customize the information they receive by
  volunteering their interests and preferences. Publishers can further
  require subscribers to offer demographic information (income,
  occupation, education, location, whatever) to use in targetting
  advertisements. To the media industry, this sounds like television
  on steroids. To privacy advocates this is a potential nightmare.

  Nobody knows what the users think about push publishing, because
  nobody is using yet Pushing. On the internet, debates about Push
  reminds me of teenage boys discussing sex in  a locker room:
  Everybody's talking, but nobody is doing it yet. Except there's one
  important difference: Most teenage boys approve of sex.

  As opposed to the tradional media industry, many internet publishers
  are sharply critical of Push. An insightful discussion is taking
  place at a site called Stating the Obvious
  <>, where author/editor Michael Sippey has
  gathered essays from several well-known web publishers. One of the
  sharper wits is freelance critic Rebecca Eisenberg, who expressed
  these reservations about targetted push advertising:

  "If the content providers decide my preferences based on stereotyped
  generalities about my age, gender and income level, and then send me
  advertisements for sales at Marshall's Clothing Outlet, discounts on
  brand-name cosmetics, and cooking equipment and recipe books, I will
  not only turn off their access to my computer, but I will throw a
  stink about their sexist and condescending assumptions in every
  venue I can."

  "On the other hand," Eisenberg continues, "if the content providers
  specifically ask me my preferences, or else take an accurate look at
  what I do already tend to purchase and/or read, and thus send me
  announcements or advertisements regarding technology industry news,
  intellectual property lawsuits filed, unions that have organized,
  media changes and mergers, and sales on stereo equipment, computer
  supplies and/or weapons, I will be greatly benefited by their
  services and make use of them as often as I find convenient. "

  I agree with Eisenberg that Push will succeed if it demonstrates
  real value to readers. Unfortunately I just don't trust
  conglomorates like Turner, Disney, the News Corporation and
  Time/Warner to respect the privacy of my personal data. Call me
  paranoid, but Push strikes me as too invasive, too much like
  infomercials, phone solicitors and junk mail. I already get plenty
  of information I don't want.

  Whatever our misgivings, the next generation of web browsers will
  introduce Push to the masses. (More exactly, the people coming
  online this year will use the Push-enabled browser provided with
  their startup kit. Diehards like me will upgrade. However our
  statistics indicate that Joe User, who started with an earlier
  version of Netscape or Internet Explorer, probably won't upgrade
  unless he has to.)

  Unfortunately, the internet masses may have problems using Push.
  Push publishing pretty much assumes you have a full-time connection
  to the internet, which means dialup users (most of us) will suffer.
  Push also requires significant bandwidth, and this cost will surely
  find its way to the consumer. These shortcomings could punch holes
  in the demographics the publishing industry needs to attract serious
  advertising budgets.

  Media companies, however, have their eyes on a difference audience:
  television. Microsoft just bought a company called WebTV, with an
  eye to leveraging Microsoft software to the 98% of US homes with
  televisions. Plugging the internet into every television would
  probably up end the media market, but this too far away for my
  crystal ball. It's not going to happen this year or next.

  Where Push seems destined to win, in the conceivable future, is
  corporate intranets. There, you're almost guaranteed to have a
  full-time LAN connection, and your friendly network adminstrators
  (and management) are eager to augment, filter and supervise your
  information diet. It sounds scary, but it's going to be a big
  business. According to a survey conducted by Cowles/SimbaNet, 87% of
  Fortune 500 companies are planning intranets, which will become a
  $5.4 billion business by the year 2000. "Intranet" is still just a
  buzzword in Hungary, but we should expect to see demand here, too.

  Another promising use for Push is in software distribution.
  Microsoft and others are developing schemes to let network managers
  upgrade and manage their users' software, which promises to slash IT
  costs. Software developers could end up selling push software
  subscriptions, transforming the software industry and creating new

  So, I do think Push has a future, but I don't see Push as a panacea
  for the media industry. Push raises a hornet's nest of concerns
  about the abuse of private information. Push demands too much
  bandwidth. I think we will see useful and profitable Push
  publications in a narrow band of market niches, but I don't think
  we're talking mass market demographics. The dark horse is
  television, but the Great Conversion isn't happening yet. For now,
  television audiences already have a phenomenally successful medium:
  they have TV. 


  Please direct your opinions to the Connected Forum
  <> or write me personally

  I write these columns twice a month for a local paper. If you'd like
  to receive them by email send a message to <>.
  No other commands required.

  Steven Carlson is Chief Strategist at iSYS Hungary 
  Copyright (c) 1996. Permission granted to redistribute this article in
  electronic form for non-profit purposes only. Contact me <> 
  for commercial reprint rights.
  This article will appear in the Budapest Sun on Thursday, May 8

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