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On a related note, a company called WebTV Networks produced a low-cost
Internet appliance and service for consumers to browse the Web and do email
on their TV sets using a wireless keyboard and remote control. Despite fund-
ing diiculties and an on-again/of-again relationship with Sony Corporation
that almost killed the project, WebTV succeeded in bringing the Web and
email to nearly a million customers seeking to avoid the cost and complexity
of personal computer ownership.
To illustrate how weird Web-related events can get, according to Wikipedia,
WebTV was for a brief time classiied as a military weapon by the U.S. govern-
ment and was banned from export because it used strong encryption. In 1997,
Microsot bought WebTV and rebranded it as MSN TV to expand its Web
ofering. Without marketing the service or servicing its customers, MSN TV
died a few years later. But the WebTV technology survived, eventually resur-
facing in Microsot's Xbox gaming console.
One of my favorite Web browsers was Virtual Places , created by an Israeli
company, Ubique. Virtual Places combined Web browsing with Internet chat
sotware and enabled collaborative Web suring. It turned any web page into
a virtual chat room where you and other visitors were represented by ava-
tars—small personal icons that you could move around the page. Whatever
you typed in a loating window would appear in a cartoon balloon over your
avatar's head. It had a “tour bus” feature that allowed a teacher, for example, to
take a group of students to websites around the world and back.
Unfortunately, the server overhead in keeping open connections and track-
ing avatar positions kept Virtual Places from expanding as the number of web-
sites exploded. At the time, Netscape was updating Navigator every few weeks.
Because Ubique couldn't keep up, nobody used Virtual Places as their default
Web browser. AOL bought Ubique for no apparent reason and sold it to IBM a
few years later. IBM used some of the technology in its sotware for corporate
communications and collaboration. Virtual Places died during the dotcom
crash at the start of the twenty-irst century, but the avatars survived.
While Java was hot, Netscape developed JavaScript, a scripting language
that ran in the Netscape Navigator browser and allowed Web developers to
add dynamic behaviors to the HTML elements of a web page. Despite having
the same irst four letters, JavaScript and the Java programming language are
quite diferent. It is suspected that Netscape changed the name from LiveScript
just because of the buzz around Java. Supericially, the code looks similar
because both are object-oriented programming (OOP) systems and have simi-
lar syntax.
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