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Dare to Compare

Rob Pegoraro
The Washington Post
September 12, 1997

The joy of capitalism is that it makes buying even simple household objects a bewildering exercise, full of choices not fully explained in the store. Gray or beige? Battery backup or not? Six or eight power levels? My usual recourse is to download an article or two from Consumer Reports' area on America Online, but CompareNet suggests another way out. The site, a project of Mountain View, California-based Web developers Internet Business Solutions (previously, the creator of such sites as Rent.Net), collects publicly available data on products, then allows you to set up line-by-line comparisons. In microwave ovens, for instance, you start by indicating what features on a list of 13 are essential (for instance, size, auto defrost, carousel and so on). This nets 11 models; from then on, it's easy to set up a side-by-side comparison or add a model's features to my wish lists. True, CompareNet would work better if it were more comprehensive and did actual reviews; maybe Consumer Reports can take the hint and buy the site.

-- Rob Pegoraro (rob@twp.com)

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