Freeserve, the UK?s largest free Internet service provider, has teamed up with Associated New Media (ANM) to provide a regional alternative to searching the entire World Wide Web.
From next month the ISP?s 1.3 million users wanting just UK-specific information can access ANM?s UK Plus directory of Web sites directly from the Freeserve start page, instead of searching the entire Internet with the likelihood of receiving an overwhelming amount of often irrelevant data. ANM is the interactive new media arm of the Daily Mail and General Trust.
Freeserve already provides a wide range of UK-specific content and extending that to the search facility, Mark Danby, general manager of Freeserve, believes is the best way to serve its customers.
?Search is cored to the Freeserve proposition. We?ve chosen UK Plus because it?s the best UK-specific search and directory facility available with the speed, quality and relevance demanded by our users,? he said.
Danby added, ?Freeserve is a UK-focused service, so for users looking for local information UK Plus is quicker than going onto the World Wide Web.?
Lycos is the current search on Freeserve and the company?s business development director, Richard Spinks insists it is not being pushed out. ?We will be in exactly the same position as we are now, ? adding that the two search facilities will reside side by side on the page offering users more choice.
However, with the latest research showing the majority of UK Internet users are frustrated by the slowness of searches and the large amount of irrelevant, or US-specific data, the temptation for users to choose a UK-specific directory over a generic search engine is high.
Andy Greenman, senior analyst at the Yankee Group Europe believes the addition of another search facility on Freeserve could pose a threat to Lycos. ?It?s not necessarily the end of Lycos, it depends on its value as a brand, which of course is hard to quantify. But as the number of new users continues to grow, existing Internet brands will lose out unless they do something miraculous.?
Greenman added, ?Lycos is one of the biggest advertisers on the Web and it can?t afford to keep advertising on a service that sticks another search engine on it.?
Spinks is confident that users will not automatically bypass its search engine in favour of the new streamlined service. ?There is no problem with relevance with Lycos, our catalogue is as good as any other for UK content,? adding that Lycos allows users to search only UK sites.
Spinks also revealed the Lycos search service will be relaunched this week following introducing daily ?spidering?, or refreshing of its database of Web sites to relay the most up-to-date information.
A new co-branded version of the UK Plus directory will be integrated into the Freeserve portal to provide a common look and feel. Danby said the name was a secret but, it would carry the slogan, ?powered by UK Plus.?
In addition, ANM?s football site Soccernet will also program half of Freeserve?s new football channel to be launched in the next two weeks. ANM will sell advertising and sponsorship and will work with Freeserve to sell products online.
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