The latest ways to chat

Voice-over-Net technology used by Internet phone Web sites is a key component in the Web's evolution, says David Greenblatt, CEO of Net2Phone in Hackensack, N.J.

The Internet is moving, he says, from a text-based medium interspersed with sound and video to a "New Web" in which entertainment, communications, and "Web intelligence" (the collection of personal data - addresses, income levels, buying habits, etc.) converge into one experience.

"The New Web will be much like interactive TV in which I see a commercial presented through video and, by making a call [via the Internet], I can order that pizza," Mr. Greenblatt says. "Then using Web intelligence, it gets delivered to my home easily."

While the New Web is still down the road, new voice applications are popping up across the Net as enhancements to all sorts of Web applications.

Major Internet portal Yahoo! already offers "click and chat" features that let you talk with other chatters on its site.

Another "killer app" will be unified messengers, says Christin Flynn, program manager with Yankee Group, a research firm in Boston. These tools convert voice, fax, and e-mail messages into the same format. So if you're on the road without a laptop, you can call into a voice-mail system and listen to your e-mail.

Other applications are being developed by companies such as Tellme Networks in Mountain View, Calif., which allows users to call a toll-free number and surf the Internet by voice commands, snagging information from stock quotes to restaurant menus.

E-commerce sites are sure to capitalize on new voice technology. Business Week reported that 80 percent of e-shoppers who begin a commercial transaction on the Web abandon the task before completing it. Expect more and more companies to try to bring that number down by offering consumers the ability to click and chat with a sales representative, who will guide them through the entire purchasing process.

- Kelly Hearn

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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