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AOL picks up info engine

Personal Library Software gains a big supporter for its new Internet search engine for proprietary online databases: America Online.

Personal Library Software today gained a big supporter for its new Internet search engine that lets users access proprietary online databases when America Online (AOL) announced that it will feature the new search engine.

The company announced the new engine, dubbed AT1, last week, promising to let people search non-HTML formatted documents as well as databases that aren't now available on the Internet. PLS says that the Web contains only one percent of all intellectual property online and that AT1 will let users tap the unexplored areas.

AOL today gave the fledgling company a boost by guaranteeing AT1 prominent placement in its Internet search area. AOL is also an investor in the company.

Even if PLS is sitting on a gold mine of never-before-searchable content, the company needs AOL's support if it is to compete with big navigation hubs like Yahoo and Excite, according to John Robb, senior analyst for Forrester Research. "Yahoo and Excite will suck the air out of everyone else. These guys are getting so big they'll pull in all the big advertisers."

AT1 relies on publishers who use a software "beacon" to create and send indices to the AT1 central server, which then compresses the data and puts it on the Internet. For AT1's launch, it will send users to publishers' sites to get the actual data. Next summer, during the second phase of AT1's rollout, users will be able to access the content directly through an AT1 interface. In both cases, publishers maintain control over fees and packaging of information, according to PLS.

Most of the "proprietary" content currently searchable on the Web is fee-based, such as IBM Infomarket Service. Some universities and libraries also offer such materials over the Web.

AT1 will feature content from publishers including Knight-Ridder, DataTimes, News Net, and the Department of Energy. AT1 will also access databases from large publishers including Mecklermedia/iWorld, Associated Press, PBS, Congressional Quarterly, Questel/Orbit, ZD Net, AT&T, and many others.