MBONE: Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet

What Alternatives to the MBONE Are Available?

The MBONE shows promise for the future, but other tools are now available for using multimedia on the Internet. For example, CU-SeeMe is a videoconferencing tool for the Mac and PCs that works without the MBONE. CU-SeeMe uses reflectors -- computers that provide the multipoint distribution functionality that multicasting would normally handle. Reflectors allow multiperson videoconferences without multicasting. Chapter 2 has more information on CU-SeeMe.

Multimedia on the Internet can also be handled by streaming technology software, which sends and receives an ongoing flow of information that can be interpreted and displayed (or heard) in real time. In this way, streaming technology software works like the MBONE; but this software does not use multicasting, and it does not require as much bandwidth as multicasting does. One example of streaming technology software is RealAudio, which is covered in Chapter 2.

John December believes that in order for MBONE and multicasting on the Internet to flourish, they must be allowed to continue their growth as they have been doing, "finding a niche from the ground up, according to the needs people have, rather than commercially introduced and presented and hyped by telecom companies." December points to the repeated failure of picture phones after more than three decades of hype by telecommunications companies. The MBONE has potential because it is controlled by the people, not by telecommunications companies.

Today, the MBONE offers users a certain degree of functionality as well as the opportunity to participate in and perhaps influence the gestation of a medium that will one day become predominant -- interactive multimedia multicast communications.

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