Monday, May 19, 1997

Week of 05/19/1997

Pushed Around The Internet?
The push for "Push" technology makes me nervous
- by David Matthews 2


That seems to be the new watchword for computers and the Internet.

Push technology - the ability to bring information to you passively while you’re busy doing something else. Bringing the information to you instead of having to look for it. Surf the web, while at the same time on one corner of the screen you see sports scores, stock market news, and headlines. Turn on Berkley Systems’ After Dark Online and you get updated news from USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and the Wall Street Journal as a screen saver. If you’re interested, click on the story and the full version of it will pop up on your web browser. If an ad interests you, click on it and it’ll take you to their web site so you can learn more about the product, and maybe even purchase it online.

So why does it make me nervous to see these software companies talk about it ad nausium?

Maybe it’s because its finding it’s way into everything from C|net to Microsoft. Microsoft is even planning on integrating push technology as part of it’s new desktop-based browser Internet Explorer 4.0 and Windows 97/98/9-whenever-we-get-the-damn-bugs-out. Netscape will also be doing the same thing with it’s version 4 desktop-based browser.

These are nice features and all, but can anyone remember about other uses for the computer BESIDES surfing the Internet? You know, things like doing the finances, composing articles, and playing games that do not require seven people from around the world? Bill Gates and his people at Microsoft say that these new desktop-based browsers will make it so that you won’t be able to tell the difference if you’re online or not. Well I don’t know about anyone else, but I WANT to know when I’m online or when I’m not! Especially if the government keeps trying to find ways of taxing Internet usage, and the phone companies want to put surcharges on online usage of phone lines. Besides, not everyone can afford a separate phone line just for Internet use!

And that brings us to another point.. a lot of the "push" technology will require state-of-the-art hardware installed into your computer. Fast modems, such as the 56K (which really ISN’T 56K) or ISDN, will do the task, sure. But how many of us still have a 14.4 modem? How many people are still playing with a 486 processor? I still know plenty of people who are still using Windows 3.1x as an operating system! Not everybody will have state-of-the-art hardware or software. Certainly the schools won’t be able to keep up with Moore’s Law and upgrade every 18 months. It’s taking various acts of Congress just to get computers into the schools! Matter of fact, even when we have state-of-the-art technology on our side, we also have to think about how fast the network will allow us to go. Not every ISP or Online service can handle 33.6K baud never mind 56K.

Besides, we are already exposed to the most intrusive form of "push" technology - Spam E-mail! Thanks to groups like Cyber Promotions and the latest in "remailer" software, almost every Internet account is jammed every day with the electronic version of junk mail. Indeed, "push" technology isn’t even really here yet, and thanks to Spam E-mail, Cyber Promotions, and remailer software, we are already being shoved around! If Microsoft and Netscape want to give us "push" technology, they should also give us the means to control what is "pushed" onto us. And that includes being able to shut off spam E-mail if we choose!

Look, I’m neither a luddite nor a technophobe, but I do appreciate some of the advantages of surfing the Internet the old fashioned way. Sure it’s chaotic. Sure it means doing a lot of digging through shit to find that nugget of pure electronic gold. Sure it doesn’t bring rewards every time. But that’s no different than anything else in life, whether it’s surfing the Net, watching TV, finding a job, or going through the singles scene trying to find that certain someone who won’t take your money and make you look like the world’s biggest eunuch. I’m not instantly leery of finding ways to make surfing easier, but I have more than enough problems being "pushed" into my lap without having Internet companies deciding what is "best" for me to surf to.

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