Internet search engine provider Lycos is to acquire Wisewire, a developer of directory building software, for $39.75 million in shares.
Wisewire was formed in 1995 and is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is funded by venture capital. The company has developed technology that automatically organises content found on the Web into pre-defined hierarchical directories.
Lycos is integrating this directory technology with its Web search engine, hoping this will give the company an edge over competitors such as Yahoo, Excite and Infoseek.
When a user performs a search on a term, for instance 'dogs', Lycos now returns a number of Wisewire categories, such as Kids>Fun>Pets>Dog', 'Pictures>Animal Kingdom>Pets>Dogs>Bull Dogs' and 'Business>Industries>Agriculture and Animals>Animal Care Industry>Dogs'.
Clicking on the right Wisewire category will lead users to only the type of Web sites they are really looking for.
Underneath the category listing, Lycos will still list Web pages in which the search engine has found the word 'dogs'.
The Wisewire technology also allows users to rate the quality of the links that are returned by the directory. Web sites that have received good marks from other users will be listed first.
Market leader Yahoo! also has a directory structure on its Web site. But this is maintained manually by its staff. Lycos claims its automated approach will make sure that fewer 'dead' links are returned. Also, ratings by fellow users will take the place of rankings assigned by search engine staff.
?The main challenge for all these Portal Aggregators, or whatever we?re going to call them, is to provide a ?home? for Web users and keep them there as long as possible,? said Vernon Keenan, senior analyst with Zona Research. Keenan said the Wisewire service would provide more search results for Lycos users, and thus would help keep them on the Lycos site longer.
However, Keenan noted that the battle between the search engines is not about features and functionality alone. ?They need to create more brand awareness. And that means real world advertising."
Recent data from Media Metrix shows that in March, 14.4 per cent of all home Web users visited Lycos at least once ? up from 12.7 in February. This makes Lycos the eighth most visited site for home users. But Lycos trails competing search engines Yahoo (52.9 per cent), Excite (27.1 per cent) and Infoseek (25.7 per cent). With business users, Lycos scores a stronger 20.0 per cent, but still well behind its three major competitors.
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