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Just Say No To E Junk

Bits & Bytes


ONE OF THE DIGITAL REVOlution's more insidious effects has been the tidal wave of E-mail, electronic documents, faxes, and other messages, not all of which are entirely useful or relevant. It's just too easy to copy a document to any number of people, whether or not any of them wants to see it.

Diffusion Inc., a Mountain View (Calif.) startup, has a new cure for this problem. Its IntraExpress software, running on corporate intranets, acts as an unobtrusive but universal distribution mechanism. Say a manager produces a weekly report about what the competition's up to. Instead of just blasting it out to all 50 employees, IntraExpress would first electronically notify the other employees of the report's publication schedule and describe its contents. Then, each employee could respond in one of three ways: subscribe to the periodical, for automatic delivery from then on; ask only to be notified when a new edition comes out, so it can be retrieved when the reader wants it; or simply say thanks, but no thanks.

What's more, the software can deliver documents in any format. Based on a profile each employee creates, IntraExpress can automatically convert and deliver that report as a fax to one person, an E-mail to another, and a Web page to a third. The manager has to create only one version. IntraExpress is scheduled for shipment in early 1997. Pricing is not yet determined.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top


NETCENTRIC CORP., A SOFTware firm in Cambridge, Mass., has come up with a clever scheme for moving faxes over the Internet from PCs to other PCs and fax machines. By avoiding long-distance charges--especially regional telephone charges, which aren't discounted--companies might save as much as 75% vs. conventional faxing.

NetCentric's system depends on a set of fax servers installed all over the Net. These machines, owned and operated by Internet service providers, will be situated right next to the banks of modems that individuals dial into from their PCs. Programmed with NetCentric software, they'll be able to identify and intercept incoming faxes before they get lost in the Internet. Then they'll relay the faxes to a similar server--the one nearest to the fax's destination and, hopefully, only a local phone call away.

For now, NetCentric is running just a few of these servers itself, to prove the concept. But company officials say they're close to signing up several major Internet service companies. Meanwhile, Symantec Corp. has just adapted its popular PC faxing program, WinFax PRO, to work with the NetCentric setup.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top


ONE OF THE ALLURES OF online services and the Internet is the chance to strike up new relationships with people all over the world. The problem is, you can't call them--or they you--without giving up your anonymity. Until now, that is.

PeopleLink Inc. in Los Angeles has created a service called ChatCall that lets online pen pals talk by telephone--without revealing their phone numbers. Once they have set up an account, two people can share a code, then call a toll-free number, punch in the code, and be connected. The calls are untraceable, and as many as six people can join in at once.

Another product, called PeopleLink, notifies Net surfers when their friends or colleagues are online, anywhere on the Net. All parties must have the software, which runs in a window next to their Web browser. It also lets them exchange short, typed messages instantly.EDITED BY JOHN W. VERITYReturn to top

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