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Lycos pushes into portal niche

In the latest in a string of deals to fertilize Lycos's growth into a full-fledged portal, the search site adds an automated search directory.

    In the latest of a steady string of deals intended to fertilize Lycos's growth into a full-fledged portal, the search site today added an automated search directory.

    Lycos acquired Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based WiseWire, and its directory technology in a stock deal worth $39.75 million.

    WiseWire's technology finds, prioritizes, and organizes content from the Internet into thousands of directories and categories automatically, using a combination of user feedback and intelligent agents, the company said. Lycos said users then essentially teach the system which sites they like and don't like using a rating system.

    "The marriage of machine and end-user helps shape, define, and classify the Internet, ultimately delivering users the most relevant up-to-date search results that are virtually free of dead links," Lycos CEO Robert Davis said in a statement.

    Earlier this month, Lycos announced it had made six deals worth $30 million, all of which are part of the company's aggressive game plan in the race to become a gateway to the Net by winning the coveted spot of start page for as many surfers as possible.

    Other search sites ad online services, such as America Online, Yahoo, and Excite are competing heavily in this space, constantly adding features such as free email, paging, games, and stock quotes to lure loyal viewers and the ad dollars that accompany them.

    Lycos hopes to differentiate itself from that pack through its acquisition of companies that offer fringe features. The company said that today marks the beginning of a 100-day rollout of products and features for its search directory.

    With WireWise's technology, search results pages will be delivered with links to top sites as ranked by Web users as well as Web sites found by the Lycos Web spider. Within the search results page, Lycos also will include links to personal homepages from the Tripod online community.

    In addition, a search query finds images, pictures, and photos with a whole new Pictures&Sounds property that contains thousands of licensed images as well as pictures and sounds from the Internet.

    Lycos shares jumped 9 percent at the opening bell to 60-3/4, up 5-1/16 from yesterday's close of 55-11/16. It closed at just under 62 after a gain of more than 6 points.

    As part of the WiseWire acquisition, Ken Lang, who developed WiseWire's technology, will become chief technology officer at Lycos. WiseWire president Dennis Ciccone will be VP of mergers & acquisitions, and Robert Frasca, senior VP of WiseWire, has also been named a vice president at Lycos.

    WiseWire was established in June 1995 with seed money from Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin Technology Center. WiseWire completed three rounds of financing with venture capital from Mellon Ventures, an affiliate of Mellon Bank; the Internet Capital Group; TL Ventures; and S.R. One.

    In addition to integration with Lycos, WiseWire technology powers The Black World Today, Suretrade, and SmithKline Beecham's corporate intranet, among others.