[This local archive copy mirrored from the canonical site: http://www.techweb.com/se/directlink.cgi?IWK19980119S0047; links may not have complete integrity, so use the canonical document at this URL if possible.]

Information Week, January 19, 1998, Issue: 665 Section: Intranets/Internet

Suite Builds Time-Saving Web Applications -- XML tools speed online searches for images or product information

Gregory Dalton

Discovery Communications Inc. is making better use of its graphic designers' time by automating searches for images on the Web using technology from startup vendor WebMethods Inc.

About 30 designers are using a software agent, created with a beta of WebMethod's Web Automation Suite, to reduce the time needed to find and retrieve images used for print and television advertising as well as CD-ROMs. Discovery expects the system, which augments an internal library of 25,000 images that can't be searched as quickly, to save the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars of designers' time.

Web Automation Suite, which will be unveiled next week by WebMethods, of Fairfax, Va., at Internet Showcase in San Diego, includes Web Automation Toolkit 2.1, introduced last month, and Web Automation Server, also to be unveiled next week.

The suite can also be used to develop and deploy other applications-or add-ons to existing applications-such as a purchasing program that searches the Web sites of several suppliers and imports product data directly into the application. Such agents can be written so searches are done directly from the application without using a browser, WebMethods says. Web Automation Suite is based on the emerging extensible markup language (XML) but also works with HTML data sources.

Pam Huling, Discovery's senior manager of photo services, says the company may eventually do its searches directly from a design application such as QuarkXPress, but for now she opts to use a browser as the front end to the password-protected Web site where searches can be conducted.

Previously, when designers searched the Web, they had to manually search the Web site of every company selling stock photographs, remember how to navigate each site, and keep track of which ones they had already searched.

"It's going to make a lot of people's lives easier," says Huling. "With a universal search, all they have to type in is what they want," including specific parameters such as "bears walking in snowy woods" so they won't get just a list of all photographs depicting bears. Purchasing the photos, however, will still require designers to communicate with the photo agencies by telephone and fax.

Discovery plans to offer access to its search site to hundreds of affiliates at overseas advertising agencies.

Copyright (c) 1998 CMP Media Inc.