AOL Expands Search Services

America Online launched a new version of AOL Search Thursday, and announced new partnerships aimed at expanding its search services.

One of the deals is with Copernic Technologies, to provide an integrated desktop search feature, AOL says. A time frame for that feature was not provided.

AOL also licensed clustering technology from Vivisimo and is using that in a new sorting and clustering feature that automatically organizes the most relevant search results by topics and shows those with a list of general Web search results. The feature means that AOL is the first of the major search engines to incorporate that type of clustering technology in search results, the company says.

Before users actually hit the "search" button, they can use an automated SmartBox suggestion tool that helps users refine their searches so that they get more accurate results. Searching on the word "eagles," for instance, brings up a query box listing the bird, the rock band, or the Philadelphia football team.

Taking Snapshots

Pulling in information from AOL's content and Web brands network, the search function now includes a set of results called "Snapshots" that offer editorial content and information for various topics such as local movie show times, sports statistics, and current events, AOL says. Member ratings of local business and restaurants are included in Snapshots, which also provide a calculator, currency converter, and the ability to find an airline flight or a restaurant.

AOL has programmed more than 2.5 million Snapshot packages that will be provided at the top of search results for up to 20 percent of all search queries.

Integrated shopping search results include access to the Pinpoint Shopping database that consists of more than 25 million products so that users can narrow the range by store name, category of items being shopped for, brands, price, and merchant ratings.

AOL Search, which has been redesigned to move away from a tabbed interface, also has been enhanced so that people with vision problems can adjust font sizes, and it also is more compatible with screen reader software that blind people use.

Based on a new algorithm, AOL Search will also have expanded local search functions soon, with more features so that users can obtain more information about the places where they live and to which they travel, AOL says. AOL and Fast Search & Transfer are working together to expand local search services and results that users can customize to their geographic locations.

The ISP also announced a deal with Ingenio, which has a Pay Per Call advertising service for merchants that will lead to sponsored link search results being listed on AOL Search, as well as AOL.com, AOL Yellow Pages, and other of its Web content, aimed at customers who are searching online for local products and services.

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