Saturday, May 21, 2005


Let's talk for a sec about the web and podcasting.

In '94 or '95, I was working for CompuServe. We had this great software called WinCIM (the “Windows CompuServe Information Manager”) that could talk to CompuServe and give you menus, images, downloads, and so forth in a nifty graphical format. About that time, though, I heard about this new thing called the World Wide Web. I downloaded some free software called Mosaic and had a look, and I was blown away. Mosaic crashed a lot, the web pages out there weren't visually as sophisticated as our WinCIM stuff, and they were so totally disorganized that you needed an indexing service (read: search engine) to find pretty much anything, but this unruly upstart had a few things going for it. For one, the web could put links anywhere in the page, not just in neatly-defined menus. And adding links was so easy you could do it with a text editor. And, most importantly, the web was decentralized: pretty much anyone could put up a web page anywhere on the Internet as long as they had the network bandwidth.

Nowadays, of course, the web's taken off and WinCIM is no more.

So, late last year, I hear about this thing called “podcasting.” Think of podcasting as being sort of like web radio. Podcasters put together radio shows as audio files. Then they publish them. Other folks download the shows and listen to them either on their iPods or MP3 players, or on their laptops. Now, notice some things about this stuff that are potentially tremendously powerful. First, anyone with a microphone and a laptop can publish a podcast and can say pretty much whatever they like, because the FCC doesn't regulate podcasts. Also, it doesn't stream like web radio: with web radio, you have to tune in at the same time they broadcast. With podcasting, you can download the show and listen to it when it's convenient for you, which has an important side benefit for the podcaster: they don't have a bazillion people trying to hit their web site all at once, so their bandwidth costs are lower. So we have the potential for people to put together their own regular radio shows without needing an FCC license, or a transmitter, or huge amounts of bandwidth, or any of that stuff.

Right now, the shows are disorganized, decentralized, and the production quality can be hit or miss. But this podcasting thing feels like it just might take off, like that web thing did.

Here are a few podcasts if you want to check it out. You can find more in the directory tree at

To just get the flavor of it, you can click on the "mp3" links to download a copy of the show.

If you want to try tuning in on a more regular basis, go to and download the ipodder software. It knows how to watch a podcast's web site (look on the site for a button marked "RSS" or "XML", or you can go through the ipodder directory) and will download the latest episodes as they become available.

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