Web Content Distribution Gets New Options

FRAMINGHAM (03/27/2000) - Companies looking for ways to speed up content distribution and delivery over the Web got more options last week.

Startup Fireclick Inc. in Los Altos, Calif., last week launched a service that uses a predictive caching technology to reduce the time it takes to download a Web page.

Fireclick's software, called Blueflame, uses real-time click-stream data (a client's usage patterns) and probability analysis to predict which elements of a page - such as a logo or a graphic - are most likely to be next requested by the user. It downloads these elements to the user's browser cache, one step ahead of the next mouse click, thereby speeding page delivery at the browser level.

Services like these are crucial for improving download times at graphics-intensive sites, said Cheryl Austin, CEO of beta-tester Intermallamerica.com, a Houston-based Web service that hosts e-commerce-enabled shop fronts for midsize and small businesses.

"It is unique in that it anticipates pages that an end consumer is likely to request and preloads it to the browser so that it is ready and waiting when the user requests it," she added.

Fireclick is the latest in a growing list of vendors offering similar, though not always identical, content distribution services. Among the more high-profile companies are Akamai Technologies Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., and Digital Island Inc. in San Francisco, both of which boast a large roster of big-name clients.

Another relatively new entrant is Boston-based Adero Inc., which last week purchased Dedham, Mass.-based Starburst Software for an undisclosed amount.

Starburst, whose customers include General Motors Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kmart Corp., provides services that help companies deliver content such as video, audio, business reports, databases, graphics and software to distributed devices such as Internet Web servers, kiosks, automated teller machines and television set-top boxes.

Starburst's services will complement Adero's GlobalWise service, which speeds performance by caching static, dynamic and streaming Web media closer to the end user.

Quicker Access Overseas

"The service allowed for a painless mirroring of our sites overseas, so that international customers have quicker access," said Joe Dunnigan, president of BigDeal.com, an online supplier of winter sports equipment in Phoenix.

Approximately 15 percent of visitors to the BigDeal site are overseas customers. Since trying Adero's service, response time to such users has improved significantly, Dunnigan claimed.

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