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Expert Zone > Agent "assistants"

Agent "assistants"
By Carlo Revelli
CEO of Cybion


There are many other types of agents that exist on the Internet. In this part, we describe some of those that can, in one way or another, assist your search activities on a network.

The "agent guide" tries to suggest sites likely to interest you, by observing your behavior on the Internet. The principle is relatively simple. Generally, the sites that you visit on the Internet reflect your tastes, or your needs. Therefore, by analyzing your surfing habits, an agent guide suggests sites based on what it understands about you ...

Letizia is an agent developed by Henry Lieberman at the MIT Media-Lab, which by observing your actions is able to anticipate your choices! Unfortunately, this project does not seem to have found a real commercial feasibility.

WBI from IBM allows you to know if a Web site is unreachable or overloaded, but also to find the path from which you identified a page. It also provides you with some suggestions to quickly find short cuts to your preferred sites.

Alexa on the other hand suggests new sites from where you are, by analyzing its files as well as the the user patterns of other people. Alexa also makes it possible to find pages that are no longer available on the original site (404 Document not found). Indeed, thanks to the progressive storage of several teraoctets of data, Alexa is gradually constructing the "memory" of the Internet. Faced with the wealth of information on the Internet, the association Internet Archive has decided to try to store as much content as possible from the Internet, in order to preserve this immense "digital heritage" (Web pages, gopher hierarchies, newsgroup messages, ftp software, etc.). Alexa provides free access for the association to the archives that it creates for its intelligent agent. Meanwhile, Deja, now owned by Google, has been indexing discussion forum messages and files since March 1995.

- Desktop agents assist you on your computer desktop. The tasks are very diverse and are sometimes directly integrated within existing software. For example, the latest mail programs make it possible to filter, eliminate, redirect, and automatically answer the e-mail that you receive. You just need to specify certain filtering rules and to optimize their operation. In other cases there is autonomous software. Some are devoted to the "search for the lost cache"... In other words, they analyze all the files that were recorded in the cache memory on your computer, so as to enable you to be able to navigate "backwards". This option is very useful for keeping a track of your movements on the Internet and also to find sites that you forgot to include in your address book (bookmarks). There are many different software programs developed, and some their functions are now included in the latest browsers.

The purpose of other assistants is to accelerate your connection because sometimes the Internet is too slow. The principle is rather simple. Each time you connect to a Web site, while you read a page, the agent loads the principal hypertext links in its cache containing the information you need. In this manner, when you click on a link, you go directly a page that is saved on your hard disk. These agents are useful for those who are not satisfied with their Internet access speed.

Some assistants check your software and as soon as an update appears on the Internet, ask you automatically whether you want to install it. Lastly, certain electronic assistants allow you to automatically scan the Internet for certain words from an e-mall, Word document, Web page, or any other office automation application.

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