RSS: Pointcast Remembered

Remember Pointcast? You know, the allegedly killer “push” technology of the mid-1990s? The one that was supposed to replace Web browsers in terms of delivering online information, but which then disappeared in 2000?

A Nov. 19, 2003 entry by Neil McIntosh in the weblog of UK newspaper The Guardian, “Top 10 Internet Fads,” makes an interesting observation about an entry and discussion of the same title happening at Kuro5hin. Pointcast made the #1 spot on Kuro5hin’s list of dead Net fads.

McIntosh notes, “Well, I’ve got one word for you: RSS. In tandem with apps like NetNewsWire, it bears more than a passing resemblance to PointCast. Push (whisper it) isn’t just still alive, it’s thriving, so healthy it’s cool.”

I think it’s worth remembering what killed Pointcast….

Pointcast was a resource hog. That made it difficult and buggy to use given the technology and bandwidth of its time.

Also, Pointcast was a company. It wasn’t just a technology, it was a service offered by a single company that was bankrolled by venture capital during the dot-com boom of the 90s. Venture capital and media efforts rarely seem to mix well, from what I’ve seen. Robust media takes time to mature and develop, and VC simply doesn’t have the patience for that.

Personally, I think the two keys to success to RSS are that no one owns it, and it’s technologically lean. That makes it versatile, flexible, and free.

2 thoughts on RSS: Pointcast Remembered

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  1. Ah, I remember Pointcast well. I remember writing about it, and thinking — briefly — “this is cool.” We all did. I remember seeing Pointcast screensavers all over the Internet World offices.

    That lasted about three days. It gradually shifted from “cool” to “neat” to “all right” to “annoying.”

    A bunch of us back then talked about the benefits of an “automatic pull” system, rather than a push one, but “push” was the buzzword so we didn’t think much more about it. And now here’s RSS and pings and… well, you know the rest.

  2. Pointcast was the best way to organize and track stocks, if had had one wish
    it would be to bring back pointcast, it was the easiest way to keep up with all the news t
    it had its own browser so Bird brain Monopolizing pig bill gate made sure to bulldoze it
    taking away another great product just for trying to compete