AOL unveils expanded search, new partners

update The company unveils an expanded search offering that lets consumers quickly narrow queries, among other new features. Images: AOL broadens its search

updateAmerica Online on Thursday unveiled an expanded search offering that lets consumers quickly narrow queries and gives users new ways to seek out information and products.

AOL also announced several partnerships and plans that will enable it to allow users to search both for online information and computer files from one location on its Web site. In addition, the online giant is expanding its local search offerings and offering advertisers a way to track which local markets their customers are coming from.

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"These announcements are part of our overall momentum, as we begin to refocus our attention on the general Web audience," said Gerry Campbell, general manager of AOL search and navigation. "We've previously been focused on AOL members in the client, then on the Web. And now we're building an audience among non-AOL members...We've had tremendous success with AOL Search from our members' perspective, and now we're broadening the scope of who are members are."

The changes to the site will be immediate for AOL subscribers, but for the general Web audience the AOL Search window won't point to the new version until Monday.

AOL is ramping up its search efforts at a time when the market is hot. Other companies, from Microsoft's MSN to Google to Yahoo, have recently bolstered their offerings in search.

AOL has added a clustering technology to AOL Search to automatically organize relevant search results by topics. That information is displayed alongside the list of general Web search results and is designed to reduce the need to wade through a long list.

AOL SmartBox, meanwhile, is an automatic search feature that allows users to view relevant categories after hitting the search button. For example, after typing the word "eagles" and hitting the search button, a list will appear across the top of the search page with the music band "The Eagles," football team "The Philadelphia Eagles," and the bird "eagles." Below those three categories are a list of sponsored links and matching Web sites.

A third revision includes Snapshots, which appears at the top of some results pages and provides hyperlinks to relevant content on the search subject. People who click on the Eagles music band, for example, will find a small photo of its members, as well as links to their biography and discography, and the ability to buy their CDs and other related products.

AOL also has revamped its shopping search to allow its members to narrow results for products based on category, brand, price, store and merchant rating.

Future offerings will center on localized search and desktop search.

AOL has entered into a license agreement with Copernic for desktop search technology. Under the agreement, AOL Search will provide

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