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The Independent Culture
MICROSOFT HAS responded to allegations made by RealNetwork's CEO, Robert Glaser, in a US Senate hearing, that Microsoft's Media Player "breaks" their competing RealSystemG2 multimedia software. Microsoft says the problem encountered is due to a bug in the RealSystem program that can easily be remedied, a claim that is denied by Glaser.

While a war of words, reminiscent of the so-called battles of the browsers and Java, is being waged between the companies, the Software Publishers Association (SPA) is considering holding a meeting to discuss industry guidelines for handling file formats for streaming software, which allows computers to receive audio and video transmissions.

RealNetworks, Netscape Communications and other companies are circulating a draft of a paper: "Rules of the Road: Fair Practices & Conventions for Handling File Formats in the Era of the Internet." Ken Wasch, SPA president, said: "For the most part there are no standard conventions for how software should function in a world with competing playback of file format."

Wasch denied that the campaign was anti-Microsoft but said he did not know whether it had been asked to review the draft. The SPA has previously allied itself with companies such as Netscape to challenge Microsoft's dominance in operating systems, and supported anti-trust lawsuits filed against it.

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INCREASING DEMAND for Internet access in Europe over the next two years will be driven primarily by a growth in business-to-business electronic commerce and result in changes to the way access providers market their services, according to a report from Forrester's European research centre.

Total spending on access in Europe is expected to climb from $2.5bn this year to $11.8bn in 2001. According to the research findings consumer spending will reach $1.4bn this year and rise to $4.6bn in 2001 while businesses will spend $1.1bn in 1998 and surpass consumers by spending $7.2bn in 2001.

The surge in business use will cause the current undifferentiated pattern of access provision to change. Multinational telecoms companies such as WorldCom and Qwest are identified as being well placed to cater for large and medium-sized businesses because of their price, service, and scalability. "WorldCom's scaring the pants off local telecoms in Europe," an analyst at Forrester's said.

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THE BBC will appoint a director of its Internet service, BBC Online, working as a full member of the BBC Broadcast Board, following the departure of Edward Briffa, the controller of BBC Online and Interactive who launched the service.

"The establishment of BBC Online has been of great strategic importance for the BBC," said Will Wyatt, chief executive of BBC Broadcast. "This change reinforces the BBC's commitment to Online, giving it a clear voice and position within the organisation."

Briffa said: "I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to launch what the director general has described as the BBC's third broadcast medium and I am confident that BBC Online has a strong future."

COMPAQ COMPUTER, the owners of the Alta Vista search engine, are expected to pay $3.35m to buy the altavista.com domain name address after a two- year dispute in and out of the courts over the rights to use the name.

Jack Marshall, the owner of a Californian company called Alta Vista Technology, registered the Alta Vista name as an address in January 1994. At the moment, Compaq runs its Alta Vista search engine from altavista.digital.com because it does not own rights to the shorter address. The Alta Vista search engine should begin using the new name next month.

When the deal is finalised, it is expected to be the largest of its kind. It may also be one of the last. A US court ruled in 1996 that speculators could not buy or trade trademarked names, generic names such as telephone.com could be bought or sold. The week before last, a UK court ruled that two students who formed a company to buy Web addresses with trademarked names had no right to demand money from companies for domain names such as marksandspencer.com and sainsburys.com.

SECURITY BUGS in three popular e-mail programs have been identified by a team of researchers at a university in Finland. Netscape Communicator's mail program and the those in Microsoft Outlook Express and Outlook 98 are all susceptible to attack if an attachment is received which has a file name of length in excess of 200 characters. It is possible that opening or receiving an attachment like this could crash the software, and it could also give a hacker the opportunity to run potentially damaging code in the computer's.

The issue affects only recent versions of the programs running under Windows. Both companies say that the likelihood of an attack is remote and that none have been reported. Fixes and advice either have already been, or will shortly be posted on Netscape's and Microsoft's Web sites.

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