Automated Surfing

A traditional Web browser is semi-automatic. The cycle starts with the browser loading a page. Then a human reads the page and selects a hyperlink. The human clicks on the hyperlink and the cycle repeats. As the amount of time humans spend in this loop has grown, it has become the subject of efficiency concerns.

NetAlive introduces a new approach. A software agent loads a document and partially interprets its content. The agent decides how to proceed, often repeating this process by loading another document. At some point, the agent presents final information to the human for higher-level processing. Agents navigate through Web documents according to a plan, which is the Internet equivalent of a computer application.

The advantages of the new approach:

NetAlive agents are a building block embodying the basic unit of Web surfing. Each NetAlive agent can access Web resources, interpret it, and display or accept information from the user's screen. These building blocks connect to each other by inputs and outputs like Lego pieces. NetAlive lets users manipulate assemblies of building blocks with a problem-oriented interface.

NetAlive's uniqueness lies in complete reliance on the building block paradigm. Visual Basic and many other tools include visual tools -- but they also require programming to attach function to the assemblies. In contrast, NetAlive automatically attaches functions to building blocks so a complete application can be created from building blocks with no programming.

NetAlive was engineered to make it easy for users to become involved in agent technology.

[Lego house]First, NetAlive objects can be used as monolithic applications. A user who simply wants to use an agent application can do so without realizing it is comprised of modules.

Second, if a user later chooses to customize an agent application, they can do so incrementally. NetAlive has several problem-oriented interfaces that use the Lego-type modularity without even exposing the user to it. For more serious work, the user simply examines the "structure" of the aspect of the agent application they are interested in. In Lego, this is like taking apart the roof of a house leaving the rest alone. Then, NetAlive has a method of grouping agents into sets, and these sets are often packaged to complement some existing application. The equivalent to these sets in Lego are sets of roof pieces. A user can then rebuild one aspect of the application - all without programming.

[Animated Lego blocks]Third, NetAlive has tools for the power-user, designer, and programmer. Some of these tools permit non-programmers to create applications from scratch -- like a set of general Lego pieces. Others let the designer control the appearance of individual agents. Still others let programmers create new agents from behavior defined by programming.

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This is part 2 of a 3 part document:
NetAlive Technology Automated Surfing Organizing the Chaos
An Overview of NetAlive Technology (5 part document):
Parts Features Security
Comparing NetAlive Platforms
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* Lego® graphics from Lego Website (