Akamai, Predictive Networks team on network-based personalization

By Stephen Lee, InfoWorld |  Networking

SAN MATEO -- Akamai Technologies Inc. and Predictive Networks Inc. announced a partnership on Tuesday that will combine Akamai's Web content delivery service with Predictive's personalization technology. The venture is expected to let content and service providers quickly deliver personalized content to end users.

The two companies are planning a beta software release in April. The product will feature Predictive's Digital Silhouettes personalization technology, which creates detailed user profiles based on their online habits. It is driven by Akamai's delivery platform -- a global network of Web-caching sites powered by an accelerated delivery service called FreeFlow.

Using the product, content providers will be able to assemble customized information on the fly and deliver it rapidly. "This could obviate cookies," said Devin Hosea, Predictive's founder and chief technical officer.

On Tuesday, Predictive also unveiled a content recognition engine, code-named "Godfrey," at the Upside Showcase in Palm Springs, Calif. Godfrey is a network-based, peer-to-peer recommendation engine that provides users with content suggestions based on similar users' behaviors. According to Hosea, Godfrey will be included in the joint April offering.

As part of the deal, Predictive has also licensed Akamai's EdgeScape geolocation technology. EdgeScape lets content providers determine visitors' approximate geographic locations based on their IP addresses, and that information can then be used to assemble personalized content.

According to Predictive officials, the company hopes to implement EdgeScape in its offerings to attract content providers. Currently, the company's main business comes from an application that lets advertisers send targeted content to network users.

Hosea hailed the partnership as a marriage of complementary partners. "Our core technology facilitates personalization, but we're not experts at putting pages together quickly", he said. "That's what Akamai does. We don't have nearly the level of content partners that Akamai has."

Akamai executives were similarly enthusiastic. "We think there is some very substantial market potential in personalization," said John Shumway, Akamai's vice-president of product management. "Predictive is a leader in unlocking that potential. Working together and with the content providers we should be able to crack some solutions that content providers will value."

Both companies emphasized the need for privacy. Predictive's Digital Silhouettes technology gathers profiles anonymously, and Akamai's EdgeScape service does not collect information that could identify users.

According to Peter Bernstein, president of Infonautics Consulting, the success or failure of the partnership will hinge on the companies' ability to make good on their privacy promises.

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