US 20050216572 A1
A system for presenting dynamic content to a user of a client device is implemented in a method including the steps of presenting a requested data object to the user; and automatically presenting dynamic content to the user in addition to the presentation of the requested data object, wherein the dynamic content includes information provided by a dynamic executable module running on the client device.
9. A client device to present dynamic content to a user, said client device comprising a computer including:
a browser programmed to present a requested data object to the user; and
a dynamic executable module programmed to automatically present dynamic content to the user in conjunction with the presentation of the requested data object.
10. The client device of
11. The client device of
12. The client device of
13. The client device of
14. The client device of
15. The client device of
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/041,001 titled “System for Targeted Delivery of Networked Content, filed Mar. 27, 1997 by Michael M. Tso et al. and assigned to Intel Corporation, the disclosure of which is expressly incorporated herein by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to the field of data communications for personal computers (PCs), and in particular to a system for delivering content, such as targeted on-line advertising, to a client device, where such delivery is not in response to a specific request for such content.
2. Related Art
The Internet is quickly becoming the preferred data communications medium for a broad class of computer users ranging from private individuals to large multi-national corporations. Such users now routinely employ the Internet to access information, distribute information, correspond electronically, and even conduct personal conferencing. An ever-growing number of individuals, organizations and businesses have established a presence on the Internet through “Web pages” on the World-Wide Web (“the Web”).
As the popularity of the Internet has grown, so too have opportunities for on-line marketing. Advertising through the Internet has become enormously popular. Indeed, in some cases on-line services like e-mail are provided free of charge as long as users are willing to receive on-line advertisements.
On-line advertisements are typically included as an integral part of the content on Web pages. This approach suffers from a variety of limitations. For example, users tend to follow hyperlinks and move from one Web page to another, much like “surfing” the channels on a television. Unfortunately, such user behavior reduces the impact of advertising, as advertisements generally require captive audiences to be most effective. There is currently no reliable method for ensuring an Internet user's attention.
To illustrate another limitation, advertisers generally must purchase individual rights on particular Web pages to distribute their advertisements, since the link to an advertisement is authored into the content. This makes advertising sales a difficult proposition given the enormous number of Web pages on the Internet. Enterprises known as “consolidators,” such as Doubleclick, purchase rights on certain pages and allow many advertisers to share the same space, but such approaches do not solve the fundamental problem that advertising space on each Web page must be individually acquired.
Yet another limitation of existing approaches to on-line advertising relates to difficulties in achieving so-called “targeted advertising,” wherein advertisements are specifically tailored to the recipient's interests and preferences. Targeted advertising on the Internet has typically been attempted using a device known as a “cookie,” which is a data item used to maintain client-specific information, such as a marketing profile, accessible by facilities that do not necessarily communicate with one another. For example, a cookie stored on a client device may be accessed by any number of Web sites which that client device visits, assuming those Web sites are preconfigured to do so. Unfortunately, propagating this type of functionality to the many thousands of Web sites on the Internet is impractical.
Another approach to targeted advertising on the Internet involves deriving profile information by analyzing the Web sites that particular users visit, as maintained in a standard logging device known as a “clickstream.” Again, however, there is no one widely-implemented mechanism for collecting clickstreams. Even for those Web sites so-equipped, the current state of the art requires the resource-intensive task of merging logs from all of the sites visited by a user.
Still more limitations of existing approaches to on-line advertising relate to the nature of the on-line advertisements themselves. On-line advertisements are typically limited in richness due to unacceptable additional latencies that would be introduced by large or highly-rich advertisements. Also, since advertisements must be rendered by a browser installed on the client device, advertisers are restricted with respect to the use of more sophisticated, non-standard data formats and compression techniques. Only those datatypes supported by the browser may be used.
In view of the foregoing limitations, there is a need for a system capable of providing targeted distribution of content to network users without requiring widespread changes to existing network infrastructures.
An embodiment of the present invention is implemented in a method for presenting dynamic content to a user of a client device. According to that embodiment, a requested data object is presented to a user. Dynamic content is automatically presented to the user in addition to the presentation of the requested data object. The dynamic content comprises information provided by a dynamic executable module running on the client device.
Embodiments of the present invention provide a system for the targeted distribution of dynamic content without the limitations of existing approaches, such as those described above. For example, embodiments of the present invention may be applied to on-line advertising in a manner that significantly improves over existing technology, particularly with respect to distribution, targeting, and feedback collection. It should be noted, however, that the scope of the present invention extends well beyond on-line advertising. The same mechanisms and methods described herein may be advantageously applied to applications involving many different types of dynamic content including, but not limited to, subscription services (for example, news, weather, stock quotes), distribution of automatic software updates, or virtually any so-called “out of band” information (that is, information not directly associated with a user request which expects an immediate response, such as a deferred, periodic, or implicit user request). In other words, “dynamic content” as used herein refers broadly to content that is not specifically requested by a user. Thus, while the following detailed description is written in terms of on-line advertising applications, persons skilled in the art will recognize that the same or similar embodiments may be readily adapted for many other types of applications.
Looking now at a first embodiment of the present invention, illustrated in
Network device 4 includes an advertising service provider 5 responsible for managing the provision of dynamic content to client device 1. In this particular embodiment, advertising service provider 5 distributes advertising content to client device 1 by embedding a dynamic advertising module (DAM) 9 into one or more Web pages 8 downloaded to client device 1. Advertising service provider 5 may comprise a software module installed in, or otherwise executable by, network device 4. Dynamic advertising module 9 may comprise a dynamic executable module of a type known in the art implemented, for example, using a Java applet or similar utility, which automatically executes upon being loaded onto client device 1.
Dynamic advertising module 9 is programmed to control the display of advertising content on client device 1. An advantage of this approach, as opposed to having advertising service module 5 simply embed advertising content into Web page 8, is that most of today's common browsers will display information from such an embedded executable module in a window separate from a requested Web page. This not only eliminates any concerns about disrupting the layout of the Web page, but also provides a more aesthetically-appealing presentation. Another significant benefit provided by the use of dynamic advertising module 9 is that there is no need for client device 1 to be pre-configured with any special software to support the presentation of advertisements.
In possible variations of the embodiment illustrated in
The foregoing embodiments may be implemented, for example, as part of a system for dynamically transcoding network content. With reference to
Transcoding server 34 may be configured to provide a wide variety of transcoding services to network client 12 and/or network devices, such as content servers, with which network client 12 communicates. In this context, the term “transcode” refers to virtually any type of addition, deletion or modification of data transmitted to or from network client 12 by or through transcoding server 34. In addition to the provision of dynamic content such as advertising, examples of such transcoding services include data compression, image scaling, and dynamic removal of predetermined content. In the context of the present invention, the provision of dynamic content may be the only transcoding service provided to a particular client device, or may be only one of a variety of services.
As illustrated in
In the arrangement shown in
Looking more closely at the arrangement shown in
Parser 22 may comprise a relatively simple, uniform interface to HTTP remote proxy 36, and may provide an API (Application Programming Interface) for transcoding data received by HTTP remote proxy 36. Parser 22 manages one or more transcode service providers 24 that are accessed through a common SPI (Service Provider Interface). In this particular implementation, parser 22 is designed in compliance with the Windows Open Systems Architecture (WOSA), and may be implemented as a Win32 DLL (Dynamic Link Library). The WOSA architecture, described in Readings on Microsoft Windows and WOSA (Microsoft Corp. 1995), enables additional transcode service providers 24 to be dynamically added to the system to provide new features and/or better transcoding algorithms, while at the same time not requiring changing or retesting other software components in the system.
Like parser 22, server-side cache interface 28 may be modeled after a standard Get/Set interface. Server-side cache memory 30 essentially “owns” all cached objects, in that it manages the properties and storage of the objects and may invalidate any non-locked object at any time; however, the actual format of any given cached object is known only by parser 22 and its associated transcode service providers 24. Thus, for data integrity and transcoding efficiency purposes, all access to server-side cache memory 30 in this arrangement is through parser 22.
In operation, transcoder 20 may use a Read( ) call to read data from a specified cached object data stream. For example, transcode service provider 24 may invoke this call and tunnel stream data through HTTP remote proxy 36 directly to network client 12. Similarly, a Write( ) call may be used to cache data from a new HTTP data stream. This call will append an incoming data stream received from, for example, a Web server or transcode service provider 24, to an opened cache stream which may be concurrently read using the Read( ) call.
Parser 22 may be configured to include the following calls:
The GetScaledObject( ) call is similar to GetObject( ), and is also used to request an object from server-side cache memory 30; however, it adds support for requesting a particular version of that object, such as a high-quality rendition. Unlike traditional caching proxies, transcode service providers 24 can use server-side cache memory 30 to store several different versions of an object to support clients with different communications and/or presentation capabilities. Thus, an additional “Stage” parameter may be used to indicate which version of the cached object is to be returned to network client 12. Where transcode service provider 24 is configured to scale network content, it may use this parameter to request a version of a cached object having, for example, a default scaled quality, a refinement to a better-quality version, or the original non-scaled version.
In this particular arrangement, when network client 12 requests a hypertext object, HTTP remote proxy 36 uses either the GetObject( ) or GetScaledObject( ) call (depending on if network client 12 is capable of receiving scaled/transcoded datatypes) to retrieve the hypertext object from parser 22. If the hypertext object is not found, parser 22 uses the CreateEntry( ) call to create an entry (in effect, a placeholder) in server-side cache memory 30 for the new object. The new entry is returned to HTTP remote proxy 36, which requests the hypertext object from network 18. As a data stream for the hypertext object is returned, HTTP remote proxy 36 calls parser 22 using the PutObject( ) call, passing into this call the new entry and the handle to the data stream to be placed into the entry. Parser 22 selects an appropriate transcode service provider 24 based, for example, on the content type of the data stream. In this context, the term content type encompasses a datatype, an HTTP MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) type, a content format, and so on. The selected transcode service provider 24 uses a separate thread to read the incoming data stream, transcode it (for example, scan for predetermined content and delete it if found), and place it within the entry of server-side cache memory 30. The current thread immediately returns to HTTP remote proxy 36, which once again calls GetScaledObject( ) (or GetObject( )). This case will always result in a cache hit. This thread then works simultaneously with the separate thread in the PutObject( ) to tunnel data (either original or transcoded) from transcoding server 34 to network client 12.
As discussed further herein, the configuration shown in
By way of further illustration,
According to another embodiment of the present invention, illustrated in
According to yet another embodiment, illustrated in
Among the features which may be provided by particular embodiments of the present invention, including those illustrated in
In possible variations of this embodiment, dynamic advertising module 9 may be configured to maintain contact with advertising service provider 5 (for example, through HTTP “POST” messages) so that the advertisements displayed reflect any changes in the original user profile resulting from activities during the current session. In other words, the user profile may be updated as a result of the user's activities during the current session, and those updates may be reflected in the dynamic content presented during that session. Advertising service provider 5 may also set and/or change configuration information controlling the operation of dynamic advertising module 9, such as how long to display each advertisement. It is also possible to integrate existing on-line advertising techniques into dynamic advertising module 9, such as the feature of known banner advertisements which enables users to click on an advertisement to access a location on the network predetermined by the advertiser, such as the advertiser's corporate presence server.
As alluded to above, it may be beneficial to collect and record clickstreams for individual users for purposes of developing and/or updating user profiles useful in highly-targeted advertising. This may be done, for example, by a browser, a local proxy, a network proxy, or a content server. It may be preferable, however, to implement such a feature in a network proxy (such as that shown in
As a further refinement providing even greater targeting capabilities, the clickstream gathering mechanism may be configured to weight a user's interest in particular Web pages or Web sites (that is, a group of pages from the same Internet domain). For example, network device 4 of
Where a measurement mechanism is provided for tracking how long a user spends at a particular Web page or site, the mechanism may include a timeout facility for ignoring out-of-bounds values which might otherwise skew results. A suitable timeout period may be on the order of five minutes for any particular Web page. Such a timeout feature is beneficial to ensure that the Web page which a user last looks at before he/she turns off their system (or leaves for an extended period of time) does not get misinterpreted as the user having spent an extremely long time looking at that page.
In one particular implementation of a time-based weighting feature, network device 4 may be programmed to perform the following time-stamping algorithm:
Another advantageous feature which may be provided by embodiments of the present invention, including those illustrated in
According to a particular implementation of this feature, network device 4 maintains state information about all of the advertisement requests being currently processed (for example, a list of sockets being used for data transfer). This information may be keyed by a unique identifier for each client device 1, such as an IP address. Each new connection accepted by network device 4 may then be categorized either as an advertisement request or as a user content request. If the former, the request is added to the list and processed if no other high-priority requests are being processed; otherwise, the network device 4 may systematically abort all other low-priority requests and begin processing the higher-priority request. In such a case, the low-priority requests will have to be restarted at a later time, either by network device 4 or by dynamic advertising module 9. Alternatively, rather than aborting the low-priority requests, network device 4 may temporarily suspend all processing related to low-priority requests and begin processing the higher-priority content request. The suspended request may remain unprocessed until all outstanding high-priority content requests have been satisfied. This alternative has the advantage of making more efficient use of network resources by not discarding partially-transferred content and maintaining the state of the connection (thus saving overhead required for setting up new connections).
The just-described approaches for background processing may be implemented using existing protocol stacks. A possible alternative approach takes advantage of overlapped input/output features that are available in some protocol stack implementations, such as Winsock2. Such an alternative approach provides a more fine-grained priority than the methods just described by waiting for the completion of each high-priority send operation instead of waiting for the end of the high-priority socket. This mechanism makes use of the feature in such protocol stacks which notifies the calling application when each send operation completes. Low-priority (or out of band) send operations can be delayed until all (or most) previous high-priority send operations are completed. Thus, both high- and low-priority sockets may be opened simultaneously, but low-priority data is only sent when the in-band socket goes idle (for example, due to server or network congestion). This is especially useful for embedded content streams such as video or persistent HTTP streams. Other optimizations are also possible, such as multiple priority levels, or anticipating socket/send completion based on average data throughput. This solution increases utilization of the communications link to the user without increasing user-visible latencies.
Another benefit provided by embodiments of the present invention is that it becomes possible to provide richer advertising content than is practical with existing on-line advertising methods. Since advertising need not add additional latency to the user's browsing, it is practical to download dynamic content including arbitrary complex objects, such as executables, as well as graphical or other multimedia data. For example, an embodiment of the present invention may be used to download a demo version of a software program being advertised, enabling the user to click on the advertisement and instantly try out the demo without waiting for the demo to be downloaded. Similarly, a preview clip of a music CD or movie may be shown to a user after it has been completely downloaded. Likewise, a “floating” animation (that is, one not framed in a window) that the user can interact with while browsing may be provided in the manner of a screen-saver. Thus, advertisements can be very interactive and very rich, greatly increasing their effectiveness. Moreover, rich advertisements may be further improved by installing software, such as an advertisement player, on a client machine. This would permit downloading only data (for example, sound, images) and instructions on how to playback the data. Savings in download time can then be realized because the player would contain most of the executable code that would otherwise have to be downloaded with every advertisement.
Embodiments of the present invention likewise enable advertisements to be targeted to a degree not readily achievable with existing technology. Whether the mechanisms are implemented in a network device or in client-based software, a wide variety of targeting criteria are possible. For example, targeting may be based upon a list of Web pages for which demographic data is available. To illustrate, it is known that a high percentage of visitors to the Dilbert™ cartoon page are white-collar office workers, who may be good candidates to receive advertisements for such items as luxury cars. Targeting may also be based on keywords in the content page, the request, or the URL accessed. A proxy (local or network) may scan for predetermined keywords and then decide which category of advertising to request. For example, if a user is viewing a Web page containing many occurrences of the words “stock” and “trade,” the user would likely be a good candidate for a discount brokerage advertisement. Unlike existing mechanisms that scan requests for keywords, embodiments of the present invention do not require any special software on the content server.
Targeting may also be based on user profile information. Such information may be collected through any of a wide variety of known methods, such as personal surveys or clickstream analysis, and then used to match profiles requested by advertisers. Embodiments of the present invention enable any advertiser to use this type of targeting capability on any Web page, regardless of whether the Web page already has a hyperlink to another advertiser or group of advertisers, since the matching may be done at the proxy (and possibly completely independent of the content). Targeting may also be based on recently-installed and/or frequently-used client-based applications. For example, software on a client machine can gather information by examining the client system (for example, the Windows registry and/or file system on PCs) for the date when applications were installed (or are frequently run). This enables advertisers to target advertisements for software add-ons, upgrades, and related products.
Yet another possibility is targeting based on client computer capabilities. For example, the client machine may be queried for its media and processing capabilities (for example, by looking at which type of software device drivers are loaded/active). This allows rich content to be customized for each user's computer capabilities to prevent instances where the client is unable to consume all of the data transferred due to system limitations, such as advertisements with audio or those requiring high-resolution video being downloaded to clients lacking the capability to render such content. It should be noted that the foregoing targeting possibilities are presented only by way of example, and not by way of limitation.
Embodiments of the present invention may be distributed, for example, as a set of instructions residing on a storage medium. Such a storage medium might be a memory of a computer; a piece of firmware; a portable storage device, such as a diskette or other magnetic storage device, or a CD-ROM; or any other medium on which it is known to store executable instructions.
Although the present invention has been described largely with reference to embodiments for processing requests for data from the Internet, persons skilled in the art will recognize that it is equally applicable to other networking environments. For example, embodiments of the present invention may be used to distribute dynamic content to users on an “intranet.” An intranet typically is a secure corporate network modeled after the Internet architecture, and generally includes mechanisms for communicating with external networks such as the Internet.
The foregoing is a detailed description of particular embodiments of the present invention. The invention embraces all alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the letter and spirit of the claims, as well as all equivalents of the claimed subject matter. For example, the foregoing embodiments need not be implemented in network devices which communicate using HTTP. The same methods described herein may be applied to any network element capable of intercepting network requests, such as protocol stacks on clients, servers, proxies or routers, or in specially-configured routers or other specially-built hardware which can intercept packets transmitted over a network. Likewise, the gathering of user profile information and demographics (for example, clickstreams) may also be done at the client using either local software or an enhanced browser. Persons skilled in the art will recognize from the foregoing detailed description that many other alternatives, modifications and variations are possible.