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Netscape Netcaster Frequently Asked Questions
Netscape Netcaster Frequently Asked Questions
What is Netscape Netcaster?
How does Netcaster relate to Constellation?
What is netcasting?
What is a channel?
What is a webtop?
What is Netscape Channel Finder?
What is offline browsing?
Who are some of the content partners supporting Netcaster?
Does Netcaster allow any Web site to be pushed?
Does Netcaster have built-in support for Marimba Castanet technology?
Does Netcaster require Marimba Castanet technology?
Can IS managers centrally administer Netcaster?
Will Netcaster support Microsoft's CDF proposal?
Does Netcaster's approach match the functionality that CDF promises?
Does Netcaster require developers to learn any new formats?
Does Netcaster require any configuration files?
Does Netcaster require any server-side changes?
What is the availability of Netcaster?
What platforms does Netcaster support?
Can I purchase Netcaster separately?
Is Netcaster available in Netscape Communicator Standard and Professional editions?
What are the system requirements for Netcaster?
What are the advantages of Netcaster over the competition?
 



What is Netscape Netcaster?
Netcaster is the new component of Netscape Communicator that enables push delivery of information and offline browsing.


How does Netcaster relate to Constellation?
Netcaster is Constellation. Constellation was the code-name for a set of advanced technologies that Netscape previewed at Fall Comdex '96.


What is netcasting?
Netcasting technology enables you to subscribe to channels, which then "pushes" content to your desktop. You don't have to manually request or search for the information.


What is a channel?
A channel is dynamic Web content that you can subscribe to and have it pushed to your desktop automatically.


What is a webtop?
Any channel can be anchored to the desktop, making it a webtop. A webtop does not integrate with the Windows desktop like Internet Explorer 4.0 does because it is meant to be a cross-platform network interface, not a proprietary, Windows-only interface. A webtop is extremely customizable because it's based on HTML and because any channel can become a webtop. With webtops, content providers and OEMs can for the first time take over desktop real estate that traditionally has been owned by operating system vendors. Webtops give OEMs and content providers more customization and flexibilty on any desktop, including Windows.


What is Netscape Channel Finder?
Channel Finder is your central source for the most dynamic channels on the Internet. Built with cutting-edge technology that blends application and content, Channel Finder is dynamically served off the Netscape Web site, so users can subscribe to an ever-growing list of premier channels right from the Netcaster user interface.


What is offline browsing?
Offline browsing lets you choose any Web site to be downloaded to your hard disk automatically so that it is instantly accessible either online or offline.


Who are some of the content partners supporting Netcaster?
Netscape has announced the support of leading content providers, including ABC News, CBS SportsLine, ClariNet Communications, CondeNet, CNET, CNNfn, Gartner Group Advisor, Greenhouse Networks, Hearst's HomeArts Network, HotWired, International Data Group, Infoseek, Lycos, The Red Herring Magazine, Time, New Media's Money Online, The Sporting News, Travelocity by SABRE, Quote.com, Yahoo!, and Ziff-Davis's ZDNet, among others.


Does Netcaster allow any Web site to be pushed?
Yes. Netcaster allows any Web site to be downloaded in the background on a scheduled basis. No server or content changes are required to enable this capability.


Does Netcaster have built-in support for Marimba Castanet technology?
Yes. Netcaster channels provide a rich user experience whether the content is delivered through Web server channels or Castanet channels. Netcaster's integrated Castanet technology offers channel developers more options for automated channel content delivery and smart application-management capabilities.


Does Netcaster require Marimba Castanet technology?
No. Netcaster works seamlessly with standard HTTP Web servers and completely leverages existing content, protocols, and infrastructure. However, to increase the breadth of capabilities for channel providers, the integrated Marimba Castanet Tuner provides an alternative, dedicated push server to offer increased automation, user feedback, efficient polling, and a distributed server architecture on server platforms including Unix and NT, providing Netscape with an application distribution solution unmatched by Microsoft. Netscape provides an open platform on which third-party developers can build push solutions.


Can IS managers centrally administer Netcaster?
Yes. Netscape Mission Control Desktop (formerly known as Administration Kit 4.0) allows Netcaster to be centrally administered for easy enterprise deployment and customization.


Will Netcaster support Microsoft's CDF proposal?
No. Microsoft's Channel Definition Format (CDF) is only in the submission phase at the W3C and is far from being an accepted standard. Netscape does not believe that CDF is necessary because netcasting can be implemented more flexibly with the existing open standards of HTML, Java, and JavaScript. Netcaster will be able to match CDF functionality by allowing content developers to use JavaScript to specify netcasting parameters. This approach will allow the Netscape netcasting platform to leverage existing standards and be open and flexible, versus forcing content developers into an unproven standard that has not been implemented in practice.

Some of CDF's drawbacks include the following:

  • The entire CDF file must be downloaded repeatedly to keep a channel up-to-date. In other words, if a content provider wants to change the date and time for a specific file, the entire CDF file must be downloaded again.
  • The ability to update individual files at different times causes huge problems with dialup home users. Each time a file needs to be updated, a separate dialup connection must be established. Users will prefer to update a channel all at once rather than in a piecemeal fashion.
  • Indicating update times for each file in a channel is a huge maintenance problem for content providers. In practice, channel providers prefer to indicate a single interval for when a channel should be updated (for example, once every two hours) and leave it up to HTTP to determine whether or not a file needs to be refreshed.


Does Netcaster's approach match the functionality that CDF promises?
Yes. With existing standards, Netcaster delivers today what CDF promises but has yet to deliver. Microsoft says that maintaining a separate list of files in CDF helps improve efficiency beyond simply crawling through a pile of links. However, there is no difference between downloading links listed in a CDF file and downloading links listed in an HTML file. Maintaining a separate CDF file makes the content provider's job more difficult and causes additional download time because the CDF file must be downloaded every time a channel is updated. By contrast, Netcaster allows content providers to use JavaScript to specify topics that make up a channel. After setting the top-level topics, the content provider can freely update channel content without worrying about updating the CDF file for every change made. These links can be downloaded just as efficiently as links in a CDF file.


Does Netcaster require developers to learn any new formats?
No. Netcaster leverages the existing open standards of HTML, Java, and JavaScript, so it requires no new formats. Yet, with existing standards, it offers all the functionality that a new format like CDF promises. Netcaster does not require developers to learn and support new layout languages (as XML does) or new syntax specifications (as CDF does).


Does Netcaster require any configuration files?
No, Netcaster does not require any configuration files. Microsoft's approach recommends the use of a CDF file; by contrast, Netcaster works seamlessly with existing HTML, Java, and JavaScript standards without requiring any new files.


Does Netcaster require any server-side changes?
No server or content changes are required to use Netcaster. Microsoft's CDF, however, does require a server-side process to automatically update the CDF file if any image, link, or filenames within the content change.


What is the availability of Netcaster?
Netcaster is currently shipping.


What platforms does Netcaster support?
Netcaster is now shipping as part of Communicator for Windows 95 and NT and is available in beta for Macintosh PowerPC and Unix AIX via SmartUpdate.


Can I purchase Netcaster separately?
No, Netcaster is an integral part of the Communicator suite (version 4.02 to 4.08). You can download Netscape Communicator suite from Netscape Browser Archive - Communicator section.


Is Netcaster available in Communicator Standard and Professional editions?
Yes, Netcaster is available in both editions from version 4.02 to 4.08. You can download Netscape Communicator from Netscape Browser Archive - Communicator section.


What are the system requirements for Netcaster?
Netcaster has the same system requirements as Communicator.


What are the advantages of Netcaster over the competition?

  • Netscape is the first to deliver push technology with numerous content providers.
    Although many push clients are on the market, none are based on open Internet standards - they require proprietary clients and servers. Netcaster is the first open standards-based push client built entirely from HTML, Java, and JavaScript that leverages existing architectures (standard web servers), existing protocols (HTTP), and existing layout and client programming languages (HTML, Java, and JavaScript).
  • Ubiquitous market distribution with support for multiple platforms.
    Netcaster is now available for Windows 95 and NT and is available in beta for Macintosh PowerPC and Unix AIX via SmartUpdate. Content providers and push vendors will choose to work with Netscape because of our dominant browser market share and our strategic advantage in supporting multiple platforms, thereby enabling distribution to the broadest possible audience, not just Windows 95 or 97 users. Microsoft has released only a Platform Preview Release for developers on Windows 95 and NT, with promises to support additional platforms in the future. Netscape has delivered timely cross-platform solutions since version 1.0 of Netscape Navigator and will continue that tradition with Communicator and Netcaster.
  • Pushed content and applications.
    Netcaster's seamless integration of the Marimba Castanet technology enables not only the delivery of web content, which is what Microsoft provides, but also the automatic delivery and updating of software applications - a critical win for customers in the Networked Enterprise.
  • Scalable architecture.
    Netcaster enables anyone to easily publish a channel with their existing Web server infrastructure. Realizing that netcasting does offer special server-side processing and bandwidth challenges, Netscape supports a dedicated push server solution to address those problems. The Castanet Transmitter, which supports the major Unix platforms as well as NT, works seamlessly with Netcaster to provide a dedicated content and application distribution server to add increased efficiency and scalability.
  • Centralized IT control.
    Using Netscape Mission Control Desktop, IT managers can push to their users just the information they want, manage bandwidth by controlling update intervals, lock down the channels that users are subscribed to, and centrally administer other Netcaster preferences throughout the enterprise.

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