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Betting on Web Search, Inktomi Unveils Upgrades

One week after narrowing its focus to Web search, Inktomi has unveiled a new version of its flagship product that promises more relevant results and additional paid inclusion options.

"Inktomi has been investing aggressively in the technology and capacity to build the best search engine on the Web, and today's release showcases this ramp-up," said Vishal Makhijani, vice president and general manager of Web Search at the Foster City, Calif., company.

Web Search 9 marks the first major overhaul of the search engine since last year. Among the upgrades are:

  • A Web services interface that allows content providers, portal and paid inclusion partners to exchange information with the Inktomi search engine.
  • Algoritmic and editoral techniques, such as Web site synopsis written by a human editor, that better interpret a user's intent and deliver more accurate, comprehensive techniques.
  • Spelling suggestions.
  • Paid inclusion customers will have the ability to provide tailored local content for more than 30 regions.
  • Improvements in information freshness (the index refreshes every 10 to 14 days, paid inclusion every two days) and the scope of the search (up to 3 billion documents).

The advancements are designed to differentiate Inktomi from competitors such as Google, Lycos (which provides similar services through a partnership with FAST) and AltaVista.

Inktomi's sale of its enterprise search unit to Verity for $25 million cash last week leaves the company with two main business components: general Web search and fast-growing paid inclusion.

Led by the success of Overture and Google, paid inclusion has been one of the few bright spots in the online ad industry. According to Salomon Smith Barney, Web search and paid inclusion is a $1.4 billion market with the potential to grow 30 to 35 percent per year to 2004, and 20 to 25 percent per year to 2008.

Inktomi's Web search is licensed by MSN, HotBot and others, to help its users locate information on the Web. Paid inclusion helps Web site operators drive traffic by ensuring that content is included and frequently updated in the Inktomi Web Search index.

Inktomi has more than 100,000 customers for the paid service and recently inked agreements with Amazon.com, eBay and Walmart.com to expand their participation in the program.

In its most recent quarter, Inktomi tallied $5.6 million in basic Web search revenue and $5.9 million through paid inclusion programs, a company spokeswoman said.