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January 17, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:31pm

RIVALS SHAPE UP 3D WEB NAVIGATION TOOL

By CBR Staff Writer

As Web sites become increasingly complicated, a number of companies are looking to graphics technology to try and improve the ability to navigate and manage the sites. These companies are saying that surfers and site managers should be able to see more than one page at a time – by representing the site as a ‘tree’ with each ‘leaf’ representing another page of the site; or as a three-dimensional hierarchy with the Home Page at the top and the linked pages spreading out behind. The latest addition to the list is Xerox Corp spin-off InXight Software Inc (CI No 3,062). So far the response to the company’s ‘hyperbolic tree interface’ – which makes a Web site look like a flow chart – has been good. InXight, apparently pronounced ‘insight’, announced in September last year that it has had its software licensed by recent Microsoft acquisition NetCarta Corp (CI No 3,061), which uses the technology in its WebMapper 2.0 management tool for Web masters, currently in beta test. The visualisation technology was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and is said to use three-dimensional modeling and animation to create graphical pictures of the data, giving users a more intuitive way of browsing and managing complex Web sites with thousands of links. Aiming this kind of Web viewing technology at the Web manager – as NetCarta does – rather than the Web surfer, may be a sensible option given the current technology. MetaTools Inc is pitching its Scout, which enables Web sites to be viewed in a 3D graphic interface, at the surfer (CI No 3,074). Expected to be launched some time this spring, Scout works with Netscape Communications Corp’s Navigator or Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer. Scout displays a Web site in a three-dimensional manner, and is said to enable surfers to zoom down to the page they require much more quickly than with a traditional Home-Page- and-links design. But not every surfer will be able to make use of the technology, since it has relatively high system requirements: Windows 95 or NT; a Pentium 133MHz; and a recommended 3D graphics accelerator; 16Mb RAM minimum, 32Mb preferred; 10Mb of free hard disk space and a CD-ROM drive. As well as the relatively high system requirement, MetaTools may struggle to get the resolution required for a surfer to make out the content of each of the miniaturized Web pages: a particular problem if a page does not have a large heading. NetCarta faces less of an uphill battle with this: Web site managers typically have powerful workstations which offer good resolution. The rival technologies can be seen at www.metatools.com/ maps/level1.html and www.inxight.com/graphics/spidview.gif.

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