Excite@Home upgrades searches

The update comes on the heels of similar moves by other major portals, which are paying closer attention to search functions as dedicated search sites continue to rob traffic from megaportal offerings.

Excite@Home's new search offering is called Excite Precision Search and will be implemented at Excite.com and Excite@Home's broadband network, according to Abbot Chambers, senior director of search and directory projects for Excite@Home. As of Thursday, Excite Precision Search had already been integrated into the Excite.com portal.

Earlier in the week, rival Lycos.com announced it now indexes an impressive 340 million Web pages and is on track to hit 1 billion by 2001. And AltaVista recently unveiled Raging Search, a stripped-down search engine that attempts to lure "high-end" Web veterans to its service.

Experts say such moves reflect concern on the part of Excite, AltaVista, and Lycos that serious searchers are increasingly turning to up-and-coming services such as Google.com and Direct Hit, as well as to more established ones such as Northern Light.

The introduction of Excite Precision Search at Excite.com will not change the look and feel of the home page. However, the query results will look very different, presented in a cleaner and simpler format.

Instead of mixing Excite@Home content, audio and video files, and links to news articles within search results, Excite Precision Search displays only URLs and the abbreviated site descriptions. You can still find multimedia content and related information by using the advanced search options listed at the top of the search results page. Links are clearly presented and let you easily dig deeper into news archives, photo collections, and the LookSmart taxonomy of Web sites.

Links to Excite@Home content are boxed and displayed to the left of the search results, and banner ads and commerce partners are de-emphasised.

New to Excite.com is the way in which the site ranks the relevancy of search results. Excite@Home's Chambers says the company has improved its search technology to cull results more effectively from a growing list of 250 million Web pages, delivering more-relevant searches.

Previously, Excite@Home analysed Web pages and determined which were the most relevant based on how many other pages linked to a particular site. The more links to a Web page, Excite@Home concluded, the better the site, and the higher the site would appear in search results. Now, Excite@Home analyses the links that lead to the destination sites. Chambers says the new search strategy helps it deliver the best of the best Web sites available.

"Users want to see relevant results front and center with minimal clutter," Chambers says. "That's what we're aiming to give them."

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