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Claria Looks To Solve Personalization Puzzle

Claria is far from the first company to try and make using the Web a more personalized experience, but the Redwood City, Calif.-based firm claims to have one of the most effective solutions and it's got plenty of test data to go by.

Claria said some 800,000 users have tried a test version of its PersonalWeb platform since it was launched a year ago. The free service has over a quarter of a million regular users.

Today Claria unveiled Axon, a version of PersonalWeb designed for partner companies to private label and customize. Canadian media giant Roger's Communications , Corel and ZTGroup are among the initial companies signed on to promote their versions of PersonalWeb. Claria said the three companies reach tens of millions users combined.

PersonalWeb is a customized home page that automatically presents users with content and advertising that matches their interests. Claria said its research during the beta test indicated PersonalWeb users interacted with the site three times more frequently than with a traditional home page. Also, the system's behaviorally-targeted banner ads received up to 15 times higher click through rates than traditional banners.

Content and product recommendations are nothing new. Amazon, for one, has offered a recommend feature, based on past purchases and other buyer's interests, for years. But Claria said its offering is unique in its scope and the pro-active nature of its ever-changing real-time feeds.

Claria's patented personalization platform builds an anonymous consumer interest profile based on Web browsing activity. It then finds the most relevant content for a particular interest by examining the patterns of users with like interests. Lastly, the system organizes and displays relevant content and ads to users within Axon-powered Web sites, software applications or hardware devices.

Claria said it was recently granted two patents (U.S. Patent No. 7,149,704 and U.S. Patent No. 7,181,488) for key aspects of the Axon platform, including the use of a smart client to understand consumer interests and deliver relevant content and ads. While Claria has filed 70 patents and been granted several, company officials said these two are the core ones to the business.

Axon is the result of over $100 million investment over the past eight years. Rogers Communications and Softbank have invested a combined $40 million the company.

There is an opt-in registration required to use PersonalWeb, which can also be shut off or on at the click of a mouse. The system tracks your Web browsing anonymously and Claria said it does not collect personally identifiable information on individual users. It also doesn't collect or track visits to so-called adult or X-rated content.

"We collect real-time information, but it creates an anonymous profile," Scott VanDeVelde, Claria's CEO, told internetnews.com. VanDeVelde also said Axon measures "usage intensity" tracking how often you visit specific sites for example. As visits decline those sites and areas of interest drop from the top showing on your PersonalWeb page or, if consistently ignored, altogether.

Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin has been testing PersonalWeb for a month and said he's found it useful. "It fundamentally tracks the info I want tracked from stocks and tech to sports and entertainment," Bajarin told internetnews.com. "It's a bit more customizable and intelligent than the other portal start pages from Yahoo and Google."

VanDeVelde said Claria aims to help users get access to more Web sites with the content they're after. "And users are passionate about their user interfaces, they're comfortable with what they know how to use. So we want to leverage that. There isn't anyone we don't want to partner with."