Microsoft is developing its own Internet push technology which could become a fully ratified standard, tightening its grip on the market at the expense of rivals such as Netscape.
Last week the company presented its Channel Definition Format (CDF), a set of APIs which provide a way for Web publishers to broadcast their content across the Internet. The technology will be implemented in the forthcoming Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, due later this year.
Microsoft has submitted CDF to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the hope it will become accepted as an industry standard. If it does, CDF will effectively give Microsoft a head start in the emerging broadcast publishing market.
Analysts believe Microsoft's move could lead to a standards war, as other vendors will now have to submit their technologies to groups such as W3C.
Rana Mainee, analyst at research firm IDG, said: "Just because Microsoft has the muscle doesn't mean it'll get to set the standard. This will galvanise an alternative industry coalition."
Melissa Bane, analyst at the Yankee Group, said last week's developments were further evidence that "the browser wars are heating up".
She fears the danger of a standards war is that users lose out. There is a possibility that if Microsoft and Netscape follow divergent paths to push technology, users of a Netscape browser may be unable to receive content from publishers using Microsoft technology, and vice versa.
Microsoft's move was greeted with derision by arch-rival Netscape. Mike Homer, senior vice president of marketing at Netscape, declared: "Microsoft always tries to take its proprietary technology and force it down the throats of everyone in the industry. But it won't matter and it won't work." Homer claimed Microsoft will end up having to adopt open protocols like other industry players.
Microsoft denied it was trying to promote proprietary technologies. "This is an open standard for everyone," protested Martin Gregory, Internet platforms marketing manager at Microsoft UK. "We are driving standards forwards for Web developers and users. The last thing the industry needs is lots of splinter groups doing their own thing."
Microsoft: the big push
Push is a technology that allows information providers to send their content to users' desktops over the Internet, saving users the bother of having to go out and find it. It involves opening channels across the Internet to a user's Web browser, down which the content providers broadcast their information.
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