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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

More Search Products Prowl for Market Share

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page F07

We need a search engine to find all the search engines. Two more Web-query services launched last week, Accoona and Blingo; their initial performance, however, suggests market leaders Google and Yahoo don't have reason to worry yet.

Accoona (www.accoona.com) went live Monday at a high-profile party in New York (former president Bill Clinton spoke at this event). Accoona says its software will deliver more relevant search results, "quick profiles" on millions of businesses worldwide, and loads of information about China (on Monday, it also launched a companion site there).

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"Accoona understands the meaning of words," chief executive Stuart Kauder said. "It will expand your query to include more matching pages. We also allow users to highlight particular words in the query that are of greater importance to them."

For all those claims, Accoona tested abominably in our own random tests. Searching on "white house," for example, pulled up the Web site for Weichert Realtors as the top result, and its "quick profile" of Wal-Mart suggested that the retailing behemoth had only nine employees. Kauder didn't say where the company obtains its company profiles, which pop up when users click on an "info" logo in its search results.

One of Accoona's biggest investors is China Daily Information Services, a Chinese government-sanctioned firm that runs a Chinese Web site and the largest English-language Web site in China. Kauder said Accoona signed a 20-year agreement with China Daily Information Services to be the exclusive search provider to its Web site and its Web affiliates. "Together we hope to have access to close to 10 million unique Chinese English-language visitors a day," he said.

The other new search site to surface last week, Blingo (www.blingo.com), appeared to deliver better search results but also looked more gimmicky. The site, unveiled in test form Wednesday, offers users a chance to win such prizes as digital cameras, Amazon.com gift certificates and music CDs with every search they run. Company officials said Blingo will offer hundreds of prizes a month while they are testing the service, then thousands each month once the site formally launches.

The Power of Suggestion

The search leaders are hardly standing still. Yahoo on Thursday announced it will soon release a free search software program to search users' local computers. And on Friday, Google launched an experimental service called "Google Suggest" in its lab area. It suggests queries by presenting words and phrases on the fly as you begin to enter a query: Type "wash," for example, and Google Suggest offers "washington post" as the most popular query along those lines. The idea, said Google spokesman Nathan Tyler, is to spare you having to type an entire search phrase -- or help you find a better one -- by showing what other Google users have looked for before.

search.yahoo.com and labs.google.com

Late Nights, Low Prices

Go ahead and have that coffee after dinner: This Web site drops its prices after midnight. SonyStyle.com is running a special through Thursday, offering 10 percent off all purchases made between midnight and 6 a.m. Think of it as a Web version of those early-morning sales off-line stores run to try to balance out traffic during the rest of the day. Sony Electronics said the promotion is intended to let people shop in a more leisurely mode and has sharply raised traffic during the sale hours.

www.sonystyle.com

E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.


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