New software that makes it much easier for visitors to cyberspace to listen to news, music and other audio programs through the global Internet was introduced recently.
The new program, which is called RealAudio Player, enables computer users navigating the Internet using the graphical environment known as the World Wide Web to choose audio clips from a menu and begin listening to them immediately.
Browsers interested in obtaining audio from the Internet often have to wait as long as five times the length of the program they have selected while the information is transmitted before being able to sample even a few seconds.
The new technology also allows the audio programs to be accompanied by still pictures or other illustrations.
``This to me is a visionary application,'' said Allen Weiner, an analyst who follows the Internet and on-line services for Dataquest Inc. ``It's more than just radio. It can be used for anything that marries sound and still-frame video.''
Progressive Networks, the one-year-old company that developed the software, has created a World Wide Web site featuring news and features licensed from ABC News and National Public Radio as well as vintage radio shows.
The company plans to make the player software available without charge to Internet users, while charging for two related programs that enable developers to create audio programs and distribute them on the Internet.
The company hopes to earn income sometime in the future from the programs themselves by either charging a subscription fee or by selling advertising.
``The commercial model has not been locked down by us,'' said Rob Glaser, president and chief executive of Progressive Networks. ``If somebody else unlocks the key to the vault before we do, we will be fast followers.''
That day may not be far off. Several developers have already licensed the technology and are quickly putting it to use.
Earlier this month, On Ramp Inc., which was founded by Adam Curry, the former MTV video jockey turned Internet impresario, became the first company to receive the rights to transmit music over the Internet from Broadcast Music International, one of two main licensers of music copyrights.
Curry plans to use Progressive Networks' software to post music, interviews and an hour-long magazine program on Metaverse, his World Wide Web site.
``Granted, the sound quality is not like listening to a CD by any means, but it's a start,'' Curry said in an interview.
Published 4/23/95 in the San Jose Mercury News.
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