Netscape has extended its contracts with the four main search engine providers for 30-60 days, while they continue to negotiate terms for possible renewal.
The browser provider has deals with Excite, Lycos, Infoseek and Yahoo, under which they pay annual fees of between $4.7 million and $12.5 million to appear in the Navigator browser. They are rotated as the default browser.
But renegotiation of the contracts has proved tough for several reasons. Netscape has announced that it will supply its own branded search engine, which is likely to come from just one of its partners.
Also, most of the search specialists - which generate more traffic on the Web than any other sites - are mulling whether they can provide direct gateways to the Net, without shelling out such large sums to Netscape.
Netscape is likely to take a stake in the search engine it selects as its main partner. Analysts believe Infoseek is the most likely of the top four because it generates the highest proportion of traffic (26 per cent) via Netscape.
Lycos was reported to have ruled out such a partnership, but its CEO Robert Davis then said it was still an option.
Some believe Netscape will look outside the main four, although Inktomi, the fifth supplier, is unlikely because Microsoft owns a stake in it.
Yahoo and Excite are also unlikely as they are moving strongly towards setting up their own personalised content services in competition with Netscape's Netcenter.
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