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Web agent technology addresses privacy needs

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SEATTLE - Start-up OneName announces today an Internet data exchange technology that lets Web sites offer their customers an array of features including privacy protection, one-click registration and automatic form filling.

Called the extensible name service (XNS), the technology creates Web agents to exchange personal profile information between end users and Web sites. XNS processes, links and synchronizes documents written in XML.

With XNS, an end user can create an XML document that includes the person's name, e-mail address and other personal information. This digital profile is managed by an XNS personal Web agent, which distributes the information according to the end user's privacy and security preferences. When the end user visits an XNS-compliant Web site, his Web agent selectively releases information to negotiate privacy contracts, enter passwords and fill out forms. If the end user changes his digital profile, his Web agent automatically updates the information on every compatible Web site.

"There's going to be a new, standard tool used by consumers and businesses that will be as commonplace as the browser, and that is the Web agent," says Drummond Reed, chief technology officer and founder of OneName. "A Web agent is like putting a server on your side of the transaction. Your server is talking to their server on your behalf to solve a whole slew of problems."

OneName sells XNS business agents for $100 per year, while personal agents based on e-mail addresses are free.

For Web sites, OneName touts the ability of XNS to automatically negotiate legally binding privacy contracts with end users. The Web site's XNS agent requests particular data from an end user and outlines how the data will be used. The consumer's XNS agent interprets this request before a deal is struck and the information is exchanged. Both agents store a copy of the privacy contract.

"For Web sites, XNS is a way of providing strong trust relationships with customers," Reed says.

OneName has created a nonprofit organization called XNSORG to oversee XNS protocol development and maintain open source code. The first ISP to license XNS is

Jawad Abbassi, a senior analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, says XNS is an interesting technology, but it's too soon to say how successful OneName will be at signing up end users, ISPs and Web sites. "They need a critical mass of consumers, and they also need a critical mass of Web sites," Abbassi says.



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