Postal service offering new online stamp system


The most common use of the Internet is electronic mail, hands down. E-mail has become so common that many folks -- myself included -- would have a difficult time getting by without it.

The United States Postal Service hasn't been sittingly idly by while technology changes the face of personal and business communications. The postal service can't do much for electronic mail, but they've developed a way to use the Internet for a new service for regular mail service.

The USPS unveiled recently the E-Stamp Internet Postage system, which combines software and hardware developed by E-Stamp Corp. to offer a new way to purchase postage.

Using the E-Stamp software, postage is "purchased" online and downloaded and held until it is needed. When postage is needed, the E-Stamp software then will print the new Information Based Indicia (IBI) -- dubbed the SmartStamp -- on an envelope or on a separate stamp printer.

The system is currently being beta tested primarily in the Washington, D.C., area, and will be expanded into other regions later this year.

The SmartStamp is printed only after an address is verified. The new indicia features a two dimensional, machine-readable bar code.

The stamp is the first new postage device approved by the postal service since 1920.

The postal service has some heavy hitters backing up the new idea -- both AT&T Ventures and Microsoft Corp. have signed on to provide marketing and infrastructure. The E-Stamp system's open licensing policy means any software company will be able to "postage-enable" its business and home office programs.

To find out more about E-Stamp, you can visit the postal service's Web site at, or E-Stamp's own home page at

BLAZING AOL. America Online will soon begin field tests of its new high-speed access lines using Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services provided by GTE.

DSL technology is more efficient than POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, offering speeds up to 25 times faster than a standard 28.8 modem can offer (where do I sign up?).

AOL will offer its members in the trial areas a special rate of only $49.95 per month for the high-speed service, which includes the normal AOL access subscription fee.

The trials will take place in six cities, which include Phoenix, Arizona, and suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Faster Internet access is at the top of most users' wish list, and the price isn't unreasonable, especially when you consider how often the World Wide Web becomes the World Wide Wait.

KEEP SEARCHING. If you depend on a single search engine to do your research on the Web, you may be missing something.

A report by the NEC Research Institute at Princeton, N.J., says that search engines only return a small portion of the total documents available on the Internet.

The researchers' conclusion? Don't depend on one search engine to find what you're looking for on the Web.

While full-text search engines like AltaVista, Excite, HotBot and others have indexed millions of pages on the Internet, they aren't all equal in how well they do their job.

Of the estimated 320 million pages of information on the Web, the researchers found that HotBot covered 34 percent. AltaVista covered 28 percent, Northern Light 20 percent, Excite 14 percent, Infoseek 10 percent and Lycos was last with 3 percent.

For the best Web searching, the researchers suggest combining results from more than one search engine. One search site, MetaCrawler (, already does just that.

Yahoo! wasn't included in the research since it manually evaluates the sites in includes in its index.

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