Lycos offers tool for Web and desktop search

Terra Lycos SA is aiming to heat up the search market with its HotBot Desktop application, which allows users to search the Web and browser history, as well as their e-mail and files.

The free download, launched Monday, works as an Internet browser toolbar. In addition to searching the Web, HotBot Desktop supports indexing and searching of Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail and files in Microsoft Office, PDF (Portable Document Format) and most text-based formats, Terra Lycos said.

The tool also includes an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) browser, which allows users to choose from hundreds of included RSS feeds, often used for distributing news content. Users can also add custom RSS feeds or subscriber-based feeds, the company said.

Combined desktop and Web search is a unique offering as major search players like Google Inc. have yet to introduce it, according to Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com.

"I think that many people would like to search their own computer with as much ease as you can search the Web," Sullivan said, "But major search players haven't offered it because searching PCs and the Web is very different."

The search differences were made explicit when AltaVista rolled out a similar product in 1998 called AltaVista Discovery, he said. The product didn't go over very well because in order to search users' computers it had to make a large index file of everything on the PC which took up time and hard drive space, according to Sullivan. These days, however, hard drives have more space and the fact that HotBot Desktop only indexes certain file formats cuts down on the indexing requirements, he said.

Waltham, Massachusetts, Terra Lycos developed the new search tool in alliance with Argo Technology Inc. While many industry watchers believe that Microsoft Corp. will launch a combined desktop and Web-search offering in its next operating system, Sullivan believes that there is room for other Web players to roll out their own offerings before that.

"I could easily see Google offer free e-mail with search capabilities," Sullivan said.

For now, however, Terra Lycos is hoping that HotBot Desktop will be the combined search tool that heats things up.

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