Browse with Your Buddies

SAN FRANCISCO (06/12/2000) - Nations coexist, couples cohabitate, companies co-locate. And now, thanks to, you can take that warm fuzzy feeling of togetherness to the Web and co-browse.

That simply means that you join a group of Web surfers, and agree to let your browser go where their browser goes. Situations that lend themselves to co-browsing might include chat rooms or telephone conference calls.

You just need to download iKena Inc.'s co-browsing software (available as a free browser plug-in), install, and register yourself as an iKena user and you've got everything you need to get out there and start co-browsing.

A Dearth of Users

Well, almost. Unless you plan on co-browsing on your own--less fun than talking to yourself, more fun than trying to beat yourself at checkers--iKena's software won't do you much good without a few friends to try it out on. As a new iKena user, your next task is to convince your family, co-workers, and friends to give it a try.

For the purposes of this article, I hoped that I'd be able to find some random person in the mood to chat and schlep around the Net. No such luck: iKena is a stand-alone Internet gizmo, and not tied to any chat rooms or instant messaging communities. Hardly anyone has registered for iKena either, since the software is a newcomer to the Internet scene. So if you want to use iKena, the onus of finding other users is on your shoulders.

Fortunately, inviting people to join iKena is easy: simply provide iKena with the e-mail addresses of the invitees, and wait for them to come online.

Off to a Slow Start

If and when you do eventually find a browsing partner, expect to spend a few minutes getting your bearings. My partner and I had a hard time, for some reason, figuring out how to join into a session. (Hint: right click over the user's name with your mouse).

Once we figured it out, however, things went swimmingly. Wherever I clicked my partner would follow, and vice-versa. I liked that iKena doesn't force users into a pilot/passenger relationship, where one person dictates where everyone else is going. Anyone in a session is free to jump in at any time and redirect the browser, although iKena does have the courtesy to complete loading one page before moving on to the next.

When you're co-browsing, iKena supplies a handy-dandy real-time chat client. If you're not in a co-browsing session, iKena users are relegated to sending chunky ICQ-like messages back and forth.

For all its virtues, be forewarned: iKena is not a very stable application yet.

It crashed my co-browsing partner's computer.

But we found that co-browsing had some benefits. We visited a number of sites which, realistically, were pretty boring, but thanks to having a friend along, didn't seem half bad. Very cozy, very cozy indeed.

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