NetAlive Applications

The public usually sees the Internet through the half-dozen or so applications that run on it (email. WWW, IRC, ...). NetAlive can change this by letting its users develop new applications systematically. One can now view the Internet as new computer with access to much of the world's information resources. A developer can now create applications on demand that use any of the resources on the Internet to solve a problem. User's can expect developers to make applications to solve the problems -- where there is sufficient demand.

This section presents four classes of Internet applications. There are applications in each class that do not use NetAlive. Where this has happened, the applications are "special cases." That is, each such application relied on a unique insight that cannot be counted-on to be available again. This section shows how the NetAlive design tool can create these applications by simply arranging tasks into different patterns. The immediate consequence is that NetAlive can assist in making more applications in these classes. The more interesting result is that a single NetAlive application can mix characteristics found in different classes. This will let a creative user make new uses of the Internet using NetAlive as a tool.

Repackage Information -- Newspaper Reader

Developers can use NetAlive as a tool to add value to existing online information. A developer uses NetAlive to create an application and stores it in an archive. The user downloads the application on each access. The application repackages online data from one or more Internet content-providers.

The figure below shows this iconographically. The folder contains a NetAlive entity for downloading on each user access. A Net Alive! entity runs on multiple computers in the general case (but not necessarily the developer's computer). This figure shows this with tentacles to the user and sources of online data. [Explain content-suppliers]

The end-user can "hyperlink" to the developer's site and see the repackaged information. In fact, there is no information at the developer's site, just an application that does the repackaging on the user's computer and on-the-fly. This is a purely software situation. The developer does not need either information or a server.

NetAlive maintains security by limiting the application to displaying information to the user.

Range of Uses

Integrate dissimilar information

NetAlive can integrate Information from several Internet sources into a single presentation. This adds value by cutting manual operation of the Internet (called surfing).

Example: Many companies have corporate annual reports online. Some stock brokers have stock prices online. An investor needs both to make wise decisions. An investor would prefer to have both types of information integrated into a single display rather than "surf" manually.

Integrate similar information

NetAlive can convert similar information from several Internet sources to a common format and integrate it. This adds value because users often want to "compare and contrast" similar information.

Example: There are many Internet "shopping malls." Each mall has thousands of products each available from one merchant. Unfortunately, a customer looks for one product at a time and wants to review offerings from as many merchants as possible. The customer would prefer a display with all malls' offerings of a single product rather than "surf" to all the malls sequentially.

User-specific presentation form

NetAlive can change information to different presentation format, even where the original online format is perfectly good. This adds value because certain classes of users want information presented in a certain way.

Example: A stockbroker wants "ticker symbols" for companies whereas the general public prefers full names. Foreign-language speakers need information translated, children and the visually impaired want big letters, etc.

Functional GUI

The computer can assist in the interpretation of information. Current Web browsers present information as a document, just as a word processor does. The computer assists only by scrolling the document within a window. Other single-computer applications use a GUI. A GUI displays topics and buttons (or other mouse-active regions) for expanding information within a topic. This lets a screen represent more information without clutter. NetAlive has a general mechanism for creating GUIs for online applications.

Example: The NetAlive newspaper reader has a four-level GUI for finding news articles. The first level is a list showing the first few words of each headline. The scroll keys display the full headline, news source, and price at the second level. The third level displays the article as text with minimal disruption, and a fourth level displays articles with pictures.

Arm's length to content supplier

A NetAlive application can insulate the business interests of the user from those of the content-supplier. Middlemen add value in business by assuring that the buyer and seller get equitable deals without either exploiting the other. A NetAlive application can act as an electronic middleman if suitably programmed.

Example: (1) The NetAlive newspaper reader puts headlines from various newspapers side-by-side along with prices so the reader can make an informed decision of which newspapers to buy subscriptions. It would be against the business interest of any newspaper to provide this service. (2) The NetAlive newspaper reader provides an ergonomic interface to assist the user in using the news efficiently. The newspapers use the computer screen like an advertisement by displaying large graphics with the newspaper's name. This serves their need to sell subscriptions, but may not serve the user's needs.

Example

The NetAlive newspaper reader integrates daily news from online newspapers and presents it with a GUI supporting quick scanning for interesting articles. The screen below shows the news sources screen. The application gets headlines asynchronously as the user selects the source's check boxes. The green boxes show that the application was loading headlines from three sources when the screen was "snapped."

After checking a series of news sources, the user can switch to the combined reader view below. The headline browser shows all headlines, but limited to one line. The arrow keys select a headline and expand it in the "full headline" area. The "full text" button goes back to the news source for the full text of the article.

The "set interest profile" button on the top switches to a view where the user specified topics of interest. The user's interests control the order that articles appear in the headline browser. The "headlines" and "articles" buttons on the lower right switch to views where headlines or articles fill nearly the entire screen.

Technical

The figure below shows NetAlive implementing a prototype application of this type. The entire application runs on the end-user's computer, although the "HTTP access" tasks interact with server programs across the network. The HTTP access tasks bring the current version of online information to the end-user's computer. The "Reformat source" tasks convert the HTML files to a common format. The "Integrate" task integrates the information and puts it into its final presentation form. "List box" displays the information.

NetAlive's features and benefits

Integrated design tool

Feature: NetAlive incudes a design tool.

Benefit: Application experts can use NetAlive to add value to the Internet in ways previously requiring a programmer.

Client automation

Feature: NetAlive automates the user's computer, rather than just the server.
Benefit: Permits information applications to be built from other information applications (see discussion on the information revolution).

Produces documents with a GUI

Feature: NetAlive entities look like a document but work like an application.
Benefit: Gives the end-user a GUI [fix this], rather than just a document.

Application is online

Feature: The NetAlive application is itself online.
Benefit: The Internet can distribute an application for pennies, and can help in advertising and customer suport.

No server required

Feature: The third-party developing the application does not require any physical asset or labor proportional to the volume of business.
Benefit: This creates a favorable business model for the developer.


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