February 17, 1997 12:15 PM PST

WebTV to support newsgroups

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Couch potatoes will soon be able to read and post to Usenet newsgroups from their television sets, as well as surf the Web.

Within the next two weeks, WebTV Networks will begin supporting Usenet groups so that users of its set-top Internet device will be able to participate in thousands of discussions on every topic from agriculture to alien abductions, according to a company spokeswoman.

The new feature is part of a gradual effort by Web TV to support many of the Internet capabilities that are already commonplace for PC users.

Because it connects to standard TV sets, Web TV is meant to appeal to consumers who want to access the Internet without shelling out for expensive computer accessories such as a monitor. But Web TV's built-in browser lacks support for many of the technologies, such as Java and real-time chat capabilities, that are available in Netscape Communciations' Navigator and other browsers.

However, the company hopes to beef up the capabilities of its browser by supporting these and other technologies, including Secure Sockets Layer and printing. It does not have a release date for a new version of the browser, a spokeswoman said today.

Web TV already includes basic support for the two principal Internet applications--email and the Web browsing. Usenet newsgroups also have a devoted following among users who are attracted by the unmoderated, sometimes racy character of the discussions. A Web TV spokeswoman said today that the company had no intention of blocking customer access to Usenet's more risque newsgroups. Individual users will be able to filter specific discussion groups with Surfwatch software though.


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