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Dow Jones Backs Off on ‘Web-Only’ Access, Will Support Windows Proprietary Product
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Posted On November 30, 1998
Throughout 1998, representatives from Dow Jones Interactive (http://ip.dowjones.com) have spread the word that their system would go "Web-only" by the end of March 1999. No longer would the system support proprietary Windows-based access through telnet connections. The professional searcher community had expressed substantial worries about the move. DJI had promised to work through any difficulties and assist customers with any problems, even those that usually lie outside normal customer support for a search service. However, customers remained concerned. Late in November, DJI announced that it would back off of the Web-only policy for the immediate future and continue to support a Windows-based, proprietary interface for the professional searcher community. The Windows access would only reach the thousands of full-text sources in the Publications Library, not other DJI products and services.

Timothy M. Andrews, vice president and editor, Dow Jones Interactive Publishing, sent a letter to the information professional community announcing the commitment to a Windows-based interface. "This product will retain the same look and functionality of the current software version, while offering improvements in the formatting and printing of articles. It will not include access to areas other than the Publications Library." At the same time, Andrews still pointed to some of the advantages Web access would offer subscribers, "... our Web-based subscribers can expect to gain advanced features such as the ability to build a search history, retrieve articles in a presentation-ready format, and display more headlines at once. Plus, we are continuing to add content to all areas of the Web version of Dow Jones Interactive that aren't available in the software version, such as reports from EIU and MarkIntel."

Dow Jones Interactive remains committed to its policy of full migration to the Web. The company still encourages all searchers to choose Web access and to invest their technological resources in Web products and services. The Web is Dow Jones' future. However, Andrews pointed out to us that he recognized professional searchers' concerns. Today's browsers do not support all of the functionality that Windows-based, proprietary interfaces to DJI do, e.g. in saving stories, page breaks, etc.

By April 1, 1999, Dow Jones will issue a new commercial Windows product interface that copies current functionality and adds more features in printing, saving stories, tables of contents, etc. The 32-bit application software will only support TCP/IP connections. Residing on the local hard drive, the Windows interface should offer some speed advantage as well as special functionality in handling page breaks, page formatting, saved source lists, saved searches, etc. DJI does not plan to offer a Macintosh access version, instead recommending that Mac users run the Windows interface under Virtual PC or some other PC accommodation.

Dow Jones does not plan to market the Windows interface or distribute it broadly, reserving it as Andrews put it "for the small core of information professionals who demand different functionality and have to do things you can't do in the Web browser." They expect that no more than 4,000 to 5,000 users will choose the Windows interface. In a typical enterprise account, Andrews expects only information center staff plus some power users would elect the Windows route. DJI will post the interface on its Web site in a section explaining detailed support and help scheduled for introduction next year.

Andrews was not sure how long support for the Windows interface would last. He expected to support it into the year 2000 in any case. He still hopes to have full migration in place by the end of 1999. As DJI adds functionality to the Web-based product, he expected to see some "feature creep" occur. In time, if browsers do not develop fast enough with the functionality needed by DJI searchers, DJI might develop its own browser plug-in, according to Andrews. Though Dow Jones tries to work closely with Netscape and Microsoft in browser development, according to Andrews, there are still "some basic things they can't do and won't do in Internet Explorer 5.0 or the next Netscape." 


Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.


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