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Excite readies community builder

The portal is expected to launch a community builder service powered by recently acquired Throw.

Excite is expected to launch a community builder service powered by recently acquired Throw, giving the portal an early jump on a landscape characterized by fast followers, CNET News.com has learned.

The new community builder will allow users to create their own closed, customized communities, a source close to the company said. Members of the customized community will be able to interact using chat and message boards, and will be able to manipulate personalized content though a beefed-up home page builder that supports graphics and pictures.

Excite declined to comment on the new project.

The expected launch of Excite's service comes a day after America Online quietly rolled out a beta version of Hometown AOL.

Other Web portals already have home page builders featured on their sites. Lycos purchased Tripod for $58 million in stock in February, and Infoseek followed suit with its acquisition of WebChat Broadcasting System.

Community builders are a way for portal companies to retain consumers in an aggressively competitive space. For example, a book club can establish its own community in which users can interact via chat, email, and message boards. Since the community is established on the Web site, members will return frequently. This then allows portals to serve more advertisements to a consistent group of visitors, which is music to their ears.

Though Excite may be the first major portal to unveil this type of service, others are not far behind. In June, Infoseek acquired 280 for $800,000 in cash. Similar to Throw, 280 creates Web-based services that allow users from multiple locations or companies to collaborate on projects using shared workspaces on the Internet.

Excite's service will be integrated on its site, and will be launched in beta shortly, the source said.