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Search engine upgrades its relevance

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August 3, 1999
Web posted at: 5:46 p.m. EDT (2146 GMT)

(CNN) -- An upgrade to the Excite search engine set to go up in 10 days promises to scour the entire Web and return more relevant information, possibly boosting its reputation among savvy Web surfers.

The upgrade will bring users closer to all 800 million of the Web's pages, said Kris Carpenter, director of search products and services for the Redwood City, Calif.-based company.

Robots and live researchers have visited every page to categorize and index them more carefully according to relevance, she said.

"By knowing what's out there we can create deeper slices of the Web based on what is of interest to the user," she said.

"We're now trying to access everything that is out there," she said. "We intend to do that in terms of indexing by taking total volume of indexed pages from 50 million up into neighborhood of 250 or 300 [million]."

Other search engines, like AltaVista, do not index all Web pages, she said.

Most competing services have failed so far to capture the bulk of the vast quantities of material that are published on the Internet, meaning that Internet users get only a partial sampling of the online material existing on a given topic.

Excite@Home says it will provide consumers more quality information than they have been able to receive to date. Excite has had a reputation of returning search results with low relevance.

"We have historically not been as comprehensive as AltaVista," Carpenter said. "With this new platform, we will surpass them."

Danny Sullivan, editor of the Search Engine Watch newsletter, was optimistic about the upgrade.

"For anybody using Excite right now it should be a huge improvement because one of the problems with Excite was it's a relatively small database and that has meant that there have been good sites that just get dumped," Sullivan said.

First-page results

Most users searching the Web reportedly reach their targeted information 15 percent of the time -- not a great batting average. The new Excite@Home, which has been under development for the past 18 months, will improve on that, Carpenter said.

"We would like to get to point where the first page of results is returning valid content you would like to start with and meets the majority of your searching needs," Carpenter said.

Duplicate sites have been eliminated and Excite has come up with new ways to record information about sites for its indexing, detecting and eliminating spam sites, she said. Along with automated indexing, Excite has relied on reports from users to find out what they thought about sites.

The engine will include all publicly available information published on the Web, she said. It will exclude password-protected sites.

The number of pages on the World Wide Web is growing and is expected to exceed 1 billion early next century. The new engine is scalable and designed to keep up with this growth, the company said.

Excite's popularity is second to that of Yahoo!, excluding default search engines installed on Netscape and Microsoft browsers, Sullivan said.

One measure of Excite's upgrade will be the reaction of research professionals who have turned up their noses at it in the past, saying it's not a powerhouse search engine like AltaVista or Northern Light.

"This does make it more competitive for those users," Sullivan said. "For the average user not aware of Excite's small size, chances are this will not even be much of an issue for them.

Excite@Home was recently formed through the merger of the popular portal Excite and @Home Corp., which provides high-speed Internet access. @Home paid $6.7 billion for Excite in a stock deal that was one of the highest-priced Internet mergers to date.

Business Week Online reported on Monday that the popular Internet portal Yahoo! Inc. was in merger talks with Excite@Home, but Excite@Home President George Bell on Tuesday flatly denied the report.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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