An Online Chat with Internet author Kevin Savetz

Editor's Note: This is an edited transcript of an online chat held
with Kevin Savetz on May 28, 1996. The chat was held in BookExpo 96 --
a service of on The Microsoft Network (Go word "bookexpo").
The interviewers are Seth Ross and Catherine Hubbard.

Host's Introduction

Hi everyone -- Welcome to AuthorChat! Thank you for joining us this fine spring evening. My name is Seth Ross. I'm the publisher of and your host for this chat. Tonight our guest is Kevin Savetz, author of MBONE - Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet and other Internet books. This is the fourth in our series of AuthorChats, a regular BookExpo 96 service. In case you're new to this part of The Microsoft Network, BookExpo 96 is an ongoing online celebration of books in cyberspace. Go word "bookexpo".

Our guest tonight is one of the Internet's distinguished young men. Kevin is a computer and technology writer specializing in the Internet, online services, and all things Macintosh. He lives in Humboldt County, California, a rugged area north of San Francisco and one of the loveliest places on earth. He is a regular contributor to Internet World, MicroTimes, Inside Mac Games and other publications. Kevin has written and co-authored several books, including ... Your Internet Consultant - the FAQs Of Life Online and Internet Unleashed. His latest, MBONE - Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet, covers one aspect of the global Internet, the "MBONE" or "multicasting backbone".

The MBONE is one of the most exciting new developments on the Internet. It allows for the delivery of video and other "rich" media information to desktops the world over. In addition to being a book author, Kevin is a host on America Online. He's also compiled the definitive list of Internet books, The Unofficial Internet Booklist. To find more of Kevin's work, check out his Page o' Stuff on the World Wide Web:

You can also find Kevin's Page o' Stuff at the Go word "savetz" here on MSN.

Thanks for joining us tonight. So, Kevin, how are you doing?

Great, Seth. Thanks for inviting me.

What is the MBONE?

MBONE stands for Multicasting Backbone--it is a "virtual network" that works with the Internet to do some amazing things that, frankly, the inventors of the Internet never dreamed of. Despite its coolness, the MBONE still requires more bandwidth and processing power than most of us have, yet. Let me give a bit of background.

Normally, packets on the Internet are "unicast," meaning they come from a particular source, and they are headed for a particular single destination. Unicast works like passing a note to a friend--there's one copy of it, and it goes to just one recipient. That works pretty well most of the time. But imagine what happens when you want to offer real-time information to a whole slew of people at once--say, the video and audio of a Rolling Stones concert. Using regular "unicast" Internet, the server needs to send individual packets of information to each recipient (concert viewer). Every participant gets his own copy of each packet of data, which eats up the bandwidth of the server. But the MBONE gets away from this problem--the MBONE does "Multicasting" instead of "unicasting". That is, it can send a packet to multiple destinations at once, rather than one at a time. Distributing information on the MBONE is more like using a megaphone than passing a note to a friend. So with the MBONE that same concert could be done with much higher quality, and a lot less wasted bandwidth on the server.

Can you explain the significance of the MBONE to the average net surfer?

Sadly, the MBONE isn't readily accessable to the average Net surfer today, unless your school or company has an MBONE connection. But the MBONE framework is a great first step to the multicasted Internet of tomorrow :) Although the MBONE does efficiently use the Internet, it has some problems: first, you need special software (so far hard to set up) and dedicated hardware to get on the MBONE. Worse, most MBONE tools require a LOT of bandwidth--128KBPS is considered the minimum for using the MBONE. Why does the MBONE need so much more than RealAudio? Well, MBONE does audio AND video--and it allows anyone with a camera to plug in and participate in real time. It lets many people "collaborate" on a project, talking together and sharing on-screen notes. It is very powerful.

Do you think that, in the future, ordinary users will be able to "multicast" from their homes?

Today, programs like StreamWorks and RealAudio are ready for prime time, and although the MBONE works today, it isn't ready for home use. MBONE works for folks with high-end equipment and high-end routers and high-speed links. Perhaps when we all have ISDN, ADSL, or cable modems, regular users like us will be able to join the MBONE fray. MBONE is expensive, even if you're "just listening." First, you need a fast Internet feed, which will run upwards of $500/month, then you need a router that can handle multicasting (or a dedicated UNIX workstation to do the job over a unicast router.) You'll also need a computer to actually use the MBONE--unfortunately, tools for using the MBONE on the Mac and Windows are juuuuust starting to be developed--most of the tools that really work are for high-end workstations like Suns. Although many organizations have all this stuff already, there is a much higher startup cost currently for MBONE. I think in the end, user-oriented tools like RealAudio may become multicasting programs and build on the framework created by the MBONE. But it may be a year or so before that happens.

Also, for more info about the MBONE, you can check out
--there are five complete chapters from my book there, so you can read all night!

How can one set MBONE up on a Win 95 machine?

A company called Precept has a product called Flashware that lets you do MBONE on Windows. -- you'll still need a fast connection and a link to the MBONE though.

Why did you start to compile the Unofficial Internet Booklist?

I started the Book List when there were about 20 books about the Internet. It was a guide to help poeple choose a book that would help them learn the Net. Today, the Book List indexes more than 500 books, and it's that much harder to find the right book on the topic you want. A lot of the books are acceptable, some aren't worth the paper they are printed on, and a few are really great. The Unofficial Internet Booklist is at

How did you get your start as an Internet writer. What was your first published piece?

I started wriitng for MicroTimes magazine, a free California monthy tiny-ads-on newsprint rag. My first article was, as I recall, something about how to find peoples email addresses on the Internet. An incredible difficult process at the time, which involved telneting, funky email interfaces and so on. Today's Web users have it easy. :)

Is there a web site that exhaustively lists email addresses? That must be almost impossible to pull off.

There are several Web sites that have searchable indexes to email addresses--none of them complete, but they all do find interesting ways to collect addresses. One of my favorites, Switchboard at, can even give you the phone numbers and addresses of people who aren't even on the Internet. Useful but a little frightening.

That's good info as I've had a number of people ask how to look up long lost friends online. Phone numbers and addresses - that is scary.

Want some other URLs?



Excellent! Thanks. What are your top 5 favorite Web sites?

Oof. lets see.


The Dilbert home page at

Inktomi at

AuctionWeb at

DejaNews at

and the Info-Mac HyperArchive at

Great. How did you get your first book contract? We have a lot of aspiring writer types I think would be interested in this topic.

Someone whom I had talked to on the Net in my fledglng days as a Net writer -- John December -- emailed me and asked if I wanted to do a chapter for an upcoming Internet book, Internet Unleashed. I wrote that ... couple of weeks later the editor called up begging for me to do another on short notice. I agreed, but stipulated that I got my own Internet book in the deal. He agreed :) that was Your Internet Consultant, which sold well but is a whole three years old now -- ages old if you're an Internet book -- so it's done selling. So I put the book online in its entirety at -- there is still some good stuff in there. One of these days I'll start updating it all.

Cool. In the net realm, who do you admire most? And do you have fans?

I don't know if I have fans. If a fan can be defined as someone who sends me email after reading my articles and asks me lots of technical questions, then yes. :)

<G> And who do you admire?

In the Internet realm I admire the work of Adam Engst (for TidBITS), Larry Wall (for Perl) and anyone else who gives good information away for free to the masses. I think that philosophy is part of what makes the Internet so amazing and useful.

Anything else you'd like to share before we let you go?

Um. Buy my book! Check out my Web page. :)


-- Kevin Savetz,

MBONE-Multicasting Tomorrow's Internet,

The Unofficial Internet Book List,

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