Touching hands
3.1.2Information Push and Information Pull

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On the current Internet, there are two ways in which information can flow from source to consumer:
1. Information Pull, where a consumer or user takes (or is given) the initiative to get it; or
2. Information Push, where a supplier takes (or is given) the initiative to deliver it.

From the early days of the Internet up until now, Information Pull has been the most dominant force in the information market. A few years ago, this meant that consumers of information would take the initiative to visit a site/to get information. They got there by casual browsing the Net, because it was recommended by someone else (e.g. in a Usenet article), or by some other way. As the number of sites and services on the Internet began to rise dramatically, Information Pull - in this form - began to loose its appeal and power as it became too time-consuming and too laborious. As search engines and directory services (such as Yahoo) appeared on the Internet, they were able to restore most of Information Pull's appeal, but this effect is now gradually wearing off.
Information Push in the form of Push Technology1 arrived on the Internet about a year ago, in the form of such applications as PointCast and BackWeb. Its promise was to offer a strong alternative to information pull, and the not-so user-friendly search engines. Until today, Push Technology has not been able to live up to all of its expectations and claims. Although it is not completely "dead", as a number of online news papers have written, Push Technology has become more of a niche product. It can be interesting for certain groups of people, and Push capabilities are (being) built into numerous applications and services (e.g. many Web sites use it to keep their readers in touch with what has changed on or what has been added to their site). Yet, it has not been able to be become the dominant way of getting information online. However, Information Push, in general is quite popular, at least in the form of mailing-list; using mailing-lists only require an e-mail program to use them, and the information as received through them usually does not contain a lot of noise (such as 'spam') or other irrelevant information.

The following diagram gives a general overview of the current situation:

Diagram 1 - the current set-up of the online information chain
Diagram 1 - the current set-up of the online information chain

In this diagram we see supplier-driven Information Push on the left side, and user-driven Information Pull on the right side. The tools, services and techniques that are at the disposal of both parties are listed as well (these listings are by no means exhaustive).
In the middle of the diagram are the tools and services that are used by both sides to get in touch with (i.e. find) each other. The thin arrows pointing at the centre are meant to symbolise that there are many ways in which the parties can try to find each other and that it is usually left up to their own skills how successful they are at doing this. Comparing diagram 1 with diagram 2 (which can be found in section 3.2) will probably be of great help to make it even more clear how the current situation compares to a new (expected/predicted) near-future set-up of the information chain.

Another thing the diagram is meant to illustrate is that the current setup is far from ideal. In chapter two we have seen that Push only seems to work for pushing 'main-stream' information (e.g. weather forecasts and stock information), which is coming from those sources that can afford to spend the time and money needed to employ Push Technology. This means that many (smaller) suppliers still have to depend on their own creativity to reach the right users. And as only about one fifth of all Internet users are using Push Technology this means that the majority of people are still out in the cold trying to get what they want.
There are various ways in which these Information Push & Pull related problems could be solved. In the next sections we will take a look at a number of promising and interesting solutions.

1= See section 2.2 for more detailed information on this topic.
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Chapter 3 - From Internet to Online Market Place "Desperately Seeking: Helping Hands and Human Touch" -
by Björn Hermans