AOL improves search service, sticks with Google

Not to be left behind in the recent search surge, America Online (AOL) has expanded its agreement with Google and shored up its own AOL Search capabilities with new query options and navigation tools.

AOL said that it will have increased access to Google's index and sponsored links as part of a new multi-year agreement, the details of which were not revealed.

The company's expanded agreement with Google spells good news for the search leader, according to Danny Sullivan, editor of editor of SearchEngineWatch.com., because it shows that AOL sees the company as a partner rather than a potential rival.

"AOL seems largely comfortable with outsourcing whereas MSN wants to own the technology," Sullivan said.

Microsoft's MSN service has recently moved to update its search technologies and just Monday ended its agreement with search listing provider LookSmart Ltd.

AOL spokesman David Theis affirmed his company's outsourcing strategy. "There is an industry leader that people value and enjoy so we are offering our users that technology, as well our own," Theis said.

In addition to its alliance with Google, AOL said that it has introduced new search capabilities within its AOL 9.0 Optimized service, such as a new "Smart" box search tool that automatically presents relevant choices when a user types in a search query in the quickstart toolbar field, and navigation tabs that provide quick access to Web pages, images and groups.

The Dulles, Virginia, Internet service provider (ISP) has also bolstered its local search features, providing query results according to user zip codes.

AOL's search improvements reflect a growing interest among Internet players to get in on the search market, which has proven a successful enterprise for Google and others with its ability to snag both paid search revenue and user popularity.

While Sullivan said that none of the AOL Search updates are a giant step in search capabilities, he added that they would probably be useful to AOL members.

AOL plans to continue to make moves in the search market, according to Theis, as its one of the hottest trends currently happening online.

"We want to show our members that we are keeping up," Theis said.

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