DataChannel Aims to Automate Web Publishing

Many industry experts say extensible markeup language (XML) will fundamentally change the nature of Web publishing. Although that paradigm shift is dependent on widespread adoption of XML, technology and a mass migration to browsers that support it, the vendor community is not waiting for that wave to crest. Products are emerging that leverage XML such as a new Web publishing tool now available from DataChannel Inc. (Bellevue, Wash.,

DataChannel Rio 3.0 is a middleware product that routes XML-enabled active content from source to presentation, and provides a framework for users to organize and distribute that information using some groupware-like capabilities. The product allows users to publish to their corporate intranet, an extranet and the Internet, via a variety of platforms and browsers. One of the company’s claims is that DataChannel Rio enables nontechnical users to update information in any location without the help of a Webmaster.

Users can publish a variety of types of content to the Web, including documents created using Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint. Files can be saved and published to a folder and be automatically delivered to a subscriber, and users can choose to have e-mail notification of the delivery.

Rita Knox, vice president and research director of Gartner Group Inc. (Stamford, Conn.), says that DataChannel is not taking the approach that the Web is special; instead, DataChannel is using the Web as mainstream technology. Knox observes that the general model of thinking about the Web in terms of HTML is that the Web is sacred. "[DataChannel] Rio is important for moving away from that model," she says. "What people want is to get the info quick." DataChannel Rio channelizes the information and reduces the time spent on sorting through unwanted information, according to Knox.

One of DataChannel Rio's key features is a "Save to the Web" option, which the product embeds into many application packages. This feature enables saving files from most Windows applications directly to a Web site. Users also can drag and drop to publish files to designated subscribers, or submit documents for distribution to others using information "channels." Channel creation and editing capabilities are integrated into Windows Explorer. "I don’t need a lot of technology sitting between me and the info that I need," says Knox. The information that a user is trying to send is what is important, not the technology that is used to get it there, according to Knox. "[DataChannel] Rio is heading in the direction where the focus is creating the content and not massaging files to get the information you need."

DataChannel Rio also offers management controls for intranet publishing. A hierarchical system enables managers to determine who can create, contribute to and manage information channels. The software's personal content organizers allow employees and managers to match desktop resources to job responsibilities. In addition, DataChannel allows a choice of four clients: a Power (Java-based) client, an HTML client, a Microsoft Active client and the Save to the Web client.

One user, Kenneth Stott, managing director of IT at Koch Industries (Wichita, Kan.,, a worldwide provider of products such as refined products, crude oil services, capital services and agriculture, found version 3.0 of DataChannel Rio attractive due to its simplicity. Users don’t have to think about different navigation mechanisms with Rio, he explains.