Section 1 - EXECUTIVE
- CallTheShots Technology and the Internet
- Data Integration
- Mobile Devices
- The Benefits of CallTheShots
- The Competitive Advantage
Section 2 - HISTORY
Section 3 - TECHNOLOGY
- Scalable Cluster Architecture
- Load Balancer
- CallTheShots Application Server
- Core Information Extraction
- Subsystem Recording/Creating
- Subsystem Data Export and Automation
- Subsystem Adapters
- The Wireless World
To enable web sites to quickly and easily offer everything to everyone.
To provide easy-to-use services that give large and small web sites
the ability to offer an unlimited variety of content, applications,
and services to their users.
Praise For CallTheShots
- CallTheShots was
chosen by Jupiter Communications, Inc. as one of three finalists
to unveil our product at the Demo-Finale: Web 2001 in New York City.
The competition, part of Jupiter's Consumer Online Forum, was held
March 1-3, 2000. Finalists were selected based on uniqueness of their
product, magnitude of the product's impact and depth of said impact
on Internet businesses. More than 80 companies submitted products
for the opportunity to be unveiled before the 1,500+ senior industry
executives, key decision-makers, and top-tier media who attended the
- Calling the deconstruction
of HTML "a trend worth watching", ComputerLetter touts CallTheShots
as offering" complex web sites a way to let visitors build their own
view of content and see only what they want to see." CTS has come
up with an algorithm that turns HTML into graphical chunks of information.
(Search boxes, chat rooms, game boards, stock tickers and plain text,
for example.) A large web site can offer up these 'chunks' for their
visitors to drag-and-drop onto a blank HTML template page. Therefore,
six click-throughs per chunk now becomes one. And with one click,
the world wide web just got smaller.
- CallTheShots was
selected at NDA '99 as one of Red Herring's Top 20 most promising
emerging technology companies reflecting their Top 10 Trends for 2000.
The technology lets users collect the parts of pages they like and
present them together on "combo pages." The service updates your clippings
automatically. CallTheShots will allow users to profit from
their work by "clipping" affiliate buttons. This marks the beginning
of a new trend: highly personal syndication not just of content, but
of commerce as well.
CallTheShots (CTS) has developed
a fundamental, proprietary, patent-pending technology that enables web
sites to offer 'everything to everyone'. CTS's technology has the ability
to break apart the Internet into a network of information blocks that
can be re-assembled on the fly with a simple point-and-click process;
absolutely no coding is required. This ease-of-use and ease of integration
allows web sites the opportunity to become 'everything to everyone'
without overloading their own engineering resources.
and The Internet
CallTheShots's technology empowers users of the World Wide Web by allowing
them to pick and choose not just what sites to visit but what pieces
of what sites to visit. Data, streaming technology, applets, forms and
applications can all be delivered in real-time with no additional programming
on the part of the user or the web site. The ability to break apart
the World Wide Web into personally relevant components decreases its
complexity and allows it to become something each user can embrace.
In the past year, CallTheShots has taken this concept from the drawing
board to fully-functional scalable implementation capable of supporting
thousands of simultaneous users. We have identified a number of markets
that would be particularly suited to CTS's technology:
- Creating dynamic, personalized pages on a web site incorporating
multimedia and text information blocks from the site's partners and,
if desired, syndicated content from CallTheShots
- Data Integration
- Data from any web page can be exported as an XML feed and translated,
via XSL, into formats suitable for any web application thus, achieving
interoperability between sites without programming.
- Mobile Devices
- User-selected content can be delivered to web-enabled mobile devices
such as Palm Pilots or cellular phones. In addition, changes in the
content can trigger notifications which can be sent to an email address,
web-enabled phone or alphanumeric pager.
The personalization market (i.e.: adding 'myYahoo'-style functionality
to a web site or an intranet) is a particularly appropriate market for
CallTheShots. By 2002, 80% of all business web sites will have personalization
services and our technology provides the easiest and most comprehensive
solution available. We enable users to drag-and-drop all types of information
directly from any web site onto a personalized template. By handling
together with HTML text and images, CTS goes beyond the textual personalization
functionality of myYahoo and AltaVista. Our proprietary, patent-pending
technology also enables us to provide this personalization capability
independent of the architecture of the web site. A business site can
continue to grow its content and diversify its partnerships because
all of the integration work is done via the service provided by CTS.
This solution allows any site to have full personalization capabilities
immediately; the site can be delivering a highly customized user experience
in days, rather than months. This personalization service helps sites
to achieve their business objectives by increasing site "stickiness",
user loyalty, and user productivity.
With the increasing use of affiliate and partnership business deals
on the Web, the need to integrate and exchange data among disparate
sites is growing dramatically. CallTheShots allows data from any HTML
web page to be exported as an XML feed. Using XSL, this feed can be
transformed into a format suitable for any web application, XML-enabled
or not. For example, exporting password-protected data from a number
of financial sites and importing that data into a portfolio analysis
application can be achieved without any programming. Thus, seamless
integration of partner sites with minimal overhead as well as interoperability
without programming is made possible.
The explosion in the number of mobile devices being used is radically
changing the outlook of the technology industry and how information
is retrieved. Unfortunately, in order to accommodate the users of mobile
devices, most sites will need to re-purpose their content in order for
their data to be accessible. In foreseeing this, CallTheShots has made
our software synergistic with today's Web-enabled hand-held devices
and mobile phones. Once a user has selected a piece of content from
a Web site, this piece can be reformatted and delivered to the user's
mobile device. Currently, CTS supports Palm and wireless-application
protocol (WAP) devices.
CallTheShots also provides
asynchronous notifications. After zeroing in on a piece of relevant
data, the user can specify various conditions under which he needs to
be notified. When these conditions are met, whether it be a numeric
condition or a keyword search, CTS will send out an e-mail or mobile
device notification. For example, the user may receive an email when
a CNN headline contains the keyword "personalization" or get paged when
a stock price jumps by 20%.
The Benefits of CallTheShots
- Dramatically enhanced
Sites can be personalized based on user interests. For example, a
Pokemon fanatic and an antiques collector would each see a different
view of the eBay site, catered to their unique interests and needs.
This increases user loyalty and site stickiness.
- Rapidly implemented
Within hours of signing a deal, sites can implement any type of business
relationship. For example, a used-car buyer on eBay would automatically
see Blue Book prices and safety scores with each car listing once
eBay has signed up Kelley Blue Book and Consumer Reports as partners.
In fact, the business development people who seal the deals could
build this functionality on the spot without any engineering assistance.
- Instant access to a
library of content and services
As CallTheShots builds up its network of partner sites, it becomes
both the marketplace and the delivery vehicle for syndicated content
and services. For example, by developing a partnership with Amazon.com,
CTS enables Quokka.com to offer its Formula One fans the auto racing
best-seller list on Amazon.com without spending any business development
or engineering resources.
- Eliminate performance
bottlenecks at the source
Accessing massive amounts of content for large numbers of users and
then customizing it causes scalability problems for a site's servers.
CallTheShots takes content customization to the edge of the network
much as Akamai has done for standardized content. Multiple user queries
for the same information only result in one request to the original
web site, reducing site congestion. User page requests go to the closest
available CTS server facility in order to give users the fastest possible
- Turnkey service for
Sites can sign up for CallTheShots-hosted service and start delivering
customized content to their users by the next day. Our service is
independent of a site's own architecture so no integration is required.
Any type of hardwired solution would have taken from weeks to months
to implement and could have required extensive re-engineering of the
- Attractive economics
The service is priced
to be only a fraction of the cost associated with hardwiring the similar
functionality piece by piece.
The Competitive Advantage
There are several
competitive advantages that create significant barriers to entry for
- CallTheShots has filed
for three patents covering the entire content handling process and
underlying algorithms. Protecting the process makes it very difficult
to design around the patents.
- CallTheShots' technology
has been in development for over two years. Much of the development
effort has been spent on adapting the raw technology to real-world
web sites with widely varying publishing and data formatting practices.
Any future competitor will face these same obstacles and will need
to invest significant resources to build a comparable solution.
- The most defensible barriers
to entry are the switching costs for both web sites and users. For
web sites, the functionality created using CallTheShots platform would
need to be created from scratch using conventional software tools,
a process that could take many weeks to months for each individual
application. Since users' personalized settings are tied to the CTS
service, an attempt to switch to another service would require users
to recreate their settings on the new service. As usage and dependence
on CTS service builds over time, this switching cost will become more
and more prohibitive. In addition, as more sites join our network
and participate as content providers and distributors, the benefit
to everyone will increase since CTS becomes not just the delivery
mechanism but the marketplace as well.
The research and development
of CallTheShots's technology was started by Mark Tsimelzon and Michael
Yurovitsky in January, 1998. The company raised the seed round of funding
and opened its Santa Clara office in June, 1999. It was founded with
the goal of combining two simple yet powerful ideas. The first is that
the unit of content on the Internet does not have to be an entire Web
page. The second idea is that users should be able to tailor content
presentation to their needs without having to write any code. The CTS
platform is a new layer of software residing between web sites and their
users that allows for the decoupling of content creation, presentation
and distribution. The CTS solution is currently being evaluated by more
than 30 high-profile internet and media sites.
CallTheShots has filed for the following patents from the United States
Department of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office:
- Method and Apparatus for
Selecting and Viewing Portions of Web Pages.
- Method and Apparatus for
Combining Parts of Different Web Pages.
- Method and Apparatus
for Notifying a User of Changes to Certain Parts of Web Pages.
CallTheShots currently employs eleven people from the technology and
marketing industries. Its Board of Directors contains people with connections
to top-tier internet companies such as Ebay and Amazon.com. Its technical
team has prior experience working for industry-leading companies such
as Motorola. Oracle, RSA, Xilinx and IBM as well as several start-ups.
CallTheShots is a privately held company that has received one round
of financing totaling $1.2 million from Gruber & McBaine Capital Management
and angel investors.
The CallTheShots technology
allows web sites to extract, transform, exchange and present information.
The unit of information on which CTS's technology operates is called
an infoblock. Any HTML web page on the Internet or an intranet can be
a source of infoblocks. The infoblocks can be extracted in plain text,
HTML or XML format and can then be delivered to a variety of devices
including standard Web browsers, email programs, Palm-like mobile devices,
Web-enabled phones or pagers. The infoblocks are available in real-time,
or caching can be enabled for higher performance. Style sheets can also
be applied to present the information in the most appropriate and customizable
form. In addition, extracted information can be transformed and forwarded
as input to another web-based application thus, achieving interoperability
of previously unrelated web applications with ease.
CallTheShots technology does
not require any engineering integration with the web site. No programming
is ever necessary. The following figure depicts how CTS server cluster
fits a typical web site environment.
As one can see from the picture,
CallTheShots servers sit completely outside of a typical web site. In
fact, CTS services can be completely outsourced. This is a major advantage
of our technology over competing solutions.
Scalable Cluster Architecture
The CallTheShots technology
is typically implemented in a CallTheShots cluster:
The three layers of a CallTheShots
- Load balancer
- CallTheShots Application
The CallTheShots cluster typically uses industry-standard redundant
BigIP load balancers from F5 Networks. The load balancer is responsible
for sending incoming user requests to the least busy server. To ensure
that a user account is only instantiated on one server per session,
persistent connections are used. BigIP load balancer is also responsible
for monitoring the performance of CTS Application servers. In case of
a hardware or a software failure, the load balancer alerts the site
administrators through email and pager, and routes incoming requests
around the failed server.
The heart of the CallTheShots cluster is the CTS Application Server.
A cluster can contain from one to hundreds of Application Servers. The
CTS Application Server is written from scratch in C++ and currently
runs on inexpensive Windows NT dual-Pentium servers. It also uses advanced
threading and memory management techniques for better scalability. The
architecture of an application server is shown below:
The Application Server consists
of four major subsystems:
- Core Information Extraction
- Recording and Creation
- Data Export and Automation
- Core Information Extraction
The Core Information Extraction Subsystem is the foundation on which
the rest of the server is built. It is responsible for information
extraction from HTML web pages. It contains the implementation of
Matching and Extraction Algorithm. This algorithm is responsible for
finding pre-specified infoblocks on web pages, even as web pages change
over time. This subsystem is also responsible for monitoring web pages
for changes. Numeric values can be monitored for specific events ("notify
me when this price gets below $90"), and text values can be monitored
for specific keywords ("notify me when there is a story about Clinton
in the list of headlines"). Notifications can be delivered to a Web-enabled
phone, alpha-numeric pager, e-mail, or a web-based interface.
- Recording and Creation
The Block Detection algorithm can break down any web page into meaningful
infoblocks. The site administrator or end user can select infoblocks
to include into the data feed using point-and-click interface. In
addition, the administrator can create XML markups to tag information
being extracted using the same intuitive interface thus, live HTML
or XML data feeds can be created without any programming. The Recording
and Creation Subsystem implements the Macro Recorder Algorithm. It
is responsible for recording user actions required to get to the web
page that contains infoblocks being extracted. The algorithm handles
logging into accounts, following links, submitting forms, HTTP redirections,
frames, cookies, etc. It also handless SSL-protected Web sites.
- Data Export and Automation
This subsystem is responsible for providing live XML data feeds and
for performing XSL transformations to translate the resulting XML
into another format; thus, it is possible to create an application
which takes data from a number of different web sites, combines it,
forwards it as input to another web site and displays the results,
all in real time.
Once infoblocks are extracted, CallTheShots can present them to the
user in many different ways:
- Internet Explorer
and Netscape browsers
CallTheShots has developed a unique DHTML-based drag-and-drop
interface for presenting information from many different web sites
on the same page. The user has full control over the block layout,
but the site's administrator can enforce a specific look-and-feel.
The blocks are also delivered independently of each other so one
slow web site will not slow down the loading of an entire customized
- Palm-like mobile
CallTheShots server recognizes when a request is coming from a
mobile device and tailors the presentation of infoblocks to the
type of the device. For users accessing their infoblocks from
a Palm device, CTS server re-formats infoblocks so that they fit
on Palm's screen.
- Web-enabled (WAP)
When the target device is a WAP-enabled cellular phone, CTS server
translates infoblocks' HTML into WML before sending them over
to the device.
Web content, or notifications on changes in web content, can be
delivered through e-mail.
- Alpha-numeric pagers
These devices are typically used for receiving notifications rather
than whole infoblocks. CallTheShots allows users to specify their
pager as a target of notifications delivery.
CallTheShots cluster can use a combination of Oracle or SQL-Server database
and the file system for data storage. Most user preferences and statistics
are stored in the database, while the binary objects describing the
exact paths and information location are stored in the file system.
Since Application Servers use extensive caching of user data, the load
on the database servers is typically fairly small.
The Wireless World
The core functionality of our technology naturally lends itself to applications
in a wireless world. Two cornerstone problems of wireless Internet access
are the ability to access small amounts of relevant dynamic information
and the ability to present it on a small-factor screen. The CallTheShots
technology is uniquely suited to solving the first problem and we have
made significant inroads into solving the second problem.
Our technology allows the
user to specify which pieces of a web page (infoblocks) the user wants
to see when he accesses the site from a mobile device. This capability
achieves two goals. First, the site does not have to re-purpose its
content for a variety of mobile devices, thereby saving considerably
on development and maintenance costs. Second, the user still gets a
personalized view of a site even when he accesses it from a mobile device.
Displaying any content on
a small-factor device is a challenge but CallTheShots is in the unique
position of being able to solve the problem of presentation in an automatic
way. As the administrator or the user creates an infoblock on a personal
computer, CTS can show right away how this block will appear on a small-factor
device. If a piece of a web page doesn't lend itself to rendering on
a small screen (for example, a table is too wide), the creator of an
infoblock will be able to specify how it should be drawn on the device
by using a simple graphical tool. (In our example, the user will have
an option of specifying whether the table should be truncated, or split
into two.) The CTS server will remember the user's instructions and
will display the content accordingly.
Currently, CallTheShots supports
two types of wireless devices: Palm VII and WAP-enabled cellular phones.
(Other devices can be added with limited effort.) The user does not
need to create different personalized versions for each device -- the
CTS server knows how to tailor the presentation depending on the device
that the user is using for access. When a user connects to the CallTheShots
server, the server identifies the requesting device by examining HTTP
headers, retrieves the requested information block and prepares it for
presentation on the specific device. For Palm VII, the server reformats
the HTML of the information block to fit the screen. For WAP-enabled
cell phones, the server translates HTML into WML (see WAP-specific section
- Palm-specific details
Although Palm claims that their gateway will transform any HTML into
a form suitable for displaying on a Palm device, experience shows
that it doesn't always work as advertised. The CTS server simplifies
the gateway's job by taking on some of its responsibilities, such
and nested tables. The CTS server will also change the layout of information
blocks to make them appear nicely on a Palm device.
To make user's information blocks accessible from Palm, the user needs
to install either a site-specific Palm Query Application (PQA) that
will direct the requests to the CallTheShots server, or a CallTheShots
PQA. The site can create its PQA by using a template provided by CallTheShots.
If a user opts to install the CallTheShots PQA, then the user will
be able to register and access all his personalized accounts from
within a single application.
- WAP-specific details
Besides having an extra small screen, WAP-enabled cellular phones
present an additional complication of not understanding HTML. For
any content to be shown on such a phone, it needs to be translated
into WML (Wireless Markup Language). There are HTML-to-WML translators
available, but CallTheShots server uses an internal translator. The
CTS server knows how an information block is put together, therefore
it can make translation decisions much better than a commercially
available gateway unfamiliar with the internal structure of infoblocks.
In addition, when the user's personalized page contains more than
one infoblock, the CTS server can automatically present it so that
each infoblock is shown as one card in a WML deck, with forward and
backward navigation enabled between the cards.