Deja.com unveils comparison shopping guide

The online gateway to chat groups relaunches its site, adding new services, discussion boards and product ratings.

Deja.com relaunched its Web site today, adding a new shopping guide to its discussion boards and product ratings.

The new shopping guide will include a comparison shopping service and detailed product information, along with expert-written reviews--which the company expects to launch in the next couple of weeks.

The revamped site is only the latest move by the company toward becoming a full-fledged e-commerce player. New York-based Deja, launched in 1995, started as a Web site that made Usenet discussion groups, or newsroups, easily accessible to Web users. Since last May, when Deja News became Deja, the company began incorporating consumer-written reviews and product ratings into its discussion boards.

"Deja is in search of a viable business model," said Lisa Allen, an Internet analyst at Forrester Research. "They've been through more than one incarnation of the site."

As e-commerce has skyrocketed, a growing number of firms have begun to act as intermediaries between e-tailers and consumers. Last year, Epinions, Productopia and ConsumerReview launched product review Web sites. And last month, CNET, the publisher of News.com, agreed to buy comparison shopping site MySimon for $700 million in stock.

Although popular as a way to participate in newsgroups, Deja has struggled to build a business. The company filed for an initial public offering last June, but it has been on hold ever since.

Because the company is in a mandatory quiet period under federal law, it cannot comment on the public offering.

The company lost $3 million on revenue of $1.7 million in the first quarter of 1999, the last period for which records are available. Deja lost $1.25 million on revenue of $922,000 for the same period a year before.

Despite its struggles, company officials said they are excited about Deja's latest move.

"It's been a bit of a painful process, but we are at the destination we have been wanting to hit," said Lisa Lahde, a company spokeswoman.

Initially, Deja will offer the shopping guide for its computer and technology area, but it plans to add guides for other shopping areas in coming weeks.

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