Mercora wants to be your music search engine -- and jukebox, too.

The Internet song-sharing network blares out millions of songs for free by letting users stream music directly to one another from their personal computers. Until now, Mercora has required people to download special software to access its vast library of what it calls "user-contributed music."

But Mercora introduced a new, Google-like music catalogue last week that lets anyone use a Web browser to search and see a list of matching songs, artists or albums from among the 6 million tracks Mercora users make available on a typical day.

To play a song, you must download Mercora's streaming software, which in our tests occasionally froze the computer. Mercora chief executive Srivats Sampath said that will soon change; Mercora is getting a redesign so both searching and listening will take place through a standard Web browser, with no download required.

Unlike most legal music services on the Internet, Mercora doesn't require users to subscribe or pay anything to listen to its tunes. Its basic library -- categorized by genre, artist, time period and artist influences -- is viewable and playable for free. Sampath said Mercora's song-sharing is legal because it involves streaming, not downloads, so it amounts to Internet radio -- and Mercora has taken pains to comply with royalty and copyright laws governing Internet radio.

"We are basically one of the world's largest radio networks, with 25,000 to 30,000 channels of music available at any given time," he said. A channel, in effect, is the music each individual stores on his computer and shares with others.

Mercora, based in Santa Clara, Calif., also introduced a mobile version as part of its $4-a-month premium subscription package. The service lets people with Pocket PCs or Microsoft Windows Mobile phones search for and play Mercora music on their phones, so long as they have Internet access over a high-speed cellular network.

Little Webbys

Former vice president Al Gore stole the Webby Awards by quipping, "Please don't recount this vote," when he accepted a lifetime achievement award last week for his role in promoting the Internet. But more than 60 other Webbys were doled out in New York at the ninth annual ceremony honoring the best, quirkiest and weirdest stuff on the Web.

You'd expect search engine Google to snare a Webby (it won for "best practices"), and for online phone provider Skype to pick one up (it took the honor for telecommunications). But it's worth trolling through lesser-known winners at the awards site for a glimpse of innovation on the Web., featuring an unusual photo design, won for best personal Web site., dedicated to people's to-do lists, won for social networking. Named both weirdest and funniest was, which features animated singing cats. In sports, the winner was, which simulates games between sports teams of today and yesterday to show likely outcomes. The nod for politics went to, a fictional multimedia site hosted by the Black Filmmaker Foundation.

Photos of Dad

You have a week to figure out how to honor dear old dad. If he's a ham, put his photo online at one of the many sites offering free pages for virtual tributes on Father's Day. created a special group blog where anyone can post a photo and personal message for display in a special gallery of dads.

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