AOL launches new portal, tests desktop search

Search feature will allow members to find photos, music and MS Office files stored on PC drives, in a challenge to Google and Microsoft.

America Online on Thursday confirmed that it is testing a new search engine that scans for files on a PC's hard drive, mirroring a similar product unveiled this week by Google.

AOL's desktop search was not developed in-house but is powered by a third-party's technology, according to a source familiar with the plans. While the source would not reveal AOL's desktop search partner, this person said it was not Google.

The desktop search tool is currently being offered as a feature within a test version of a standalone Web browser that AOL is developing, the source said.

AOL spokeswoman Anne Bentley confirmed that the desktop search tool is being tested alongside the AOL Browser but declined to elaborate further. She said the AOL Browser will launch as early as November.

Separately, the company on Thursday unveiled a redesign of As previously reported, the move highlights AOL's latest attempt to create a popular Web portal.

AOL's desktop search engine will take on Google, Microsoft and other rivals looking to expand the success of Web search into new arenas. The move could be a longer reach for AOL, which has so far contributed little to develop is own search technology.

The company currently has a partnership with Google to power its Web and commercial search results, a deal that has helped AOL bounce back from its online advertising drought, adding $72 million in revenue last quarter, up from $31 million the year before.

AOL's desktop search tool will match many features offered in Google's similar application, released Thursday. Both products can search for Microsoft Office files such as Word and Excel, photos, music, chat logs from AOL Instant Messenger and previously viewed IE pages.

Google's search tool can be integrated into Microsoft's IE browser, but users have to download the software separately from its Web site.

The release of these technologies highlights efforts by the top Web giants to become leaders in Web search. The idea is to offer more features when people conduct a search query, display commercial search results in the margins and to gain consumer loyalty for a search engine.

Meanwhile, the relaunch of's member page shows a flashier version of the site. Most of the features, such as the ability to move around content boxes on the site and links to video and audio feeds, are geared toward broadband users.

The site is encoded in Macromedia's Flash technology, giving it a more graphical feel. A more trimmed-down HTML version for dial-up users is expected to launch this winter.

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