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MSN.com does search deals

The Microsoft portal adopts rival Netscape's search rotation model, entering agreements worth a total of $60 million.

    Microsoft portal MSN.com has reached agreements worth $60 million with four Net companies to provide searches on a rotating basis.

    An MSN.com spokeswoman confirmed that the search rotation--which includes AltaVista, Lycos, Infoseek, and Snap--will begin next month and also will feature MSN.com's own search function. (Snap is a joint venture between NBC and CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of News.com.)

    Financial details of the one-year deals and the frequency with which each search offering will appear on the MSN.com home page were not released, but each partner is guaranteed a minimum number of impressions, Microsoft said.

    Infoseek chief financial officer Les Wright said the company would take a one-time charge of between $7 million and $8 million related to the deal during its fiscal third quarter.

    Earlier this month, MSN.com launched a beta version of its new MSN Web Search, a collaborative effort with behind-the-scenes search technology firm Inktomi, which powers the search function on several top portal sites.

    "Our MSN Web Search is still in beta and when that launches [in October], these partners will go into rotation at the same time," said MSN.com group product manager Susan Weeber. "This positions Microsoft as a great distribution point on the Internet and it provides customers with a great deal of choices among the top search engines. They're very quality choices."

    Microsoft's Web properties have undergone a series of machinations in recent months as the software company has attempted to combine its Internet presence into one brand. The new portal had been called "Start.com" until changing to MSN.com recently.

    The MSN.com search rotation is similar to the strategy Netscape Communications is employing with its Netcenter portal.

    Netcenter's Net Search also uses a rotation that includes Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, AltaVista, and LookSmart in addition to its own branded search. The deals behind the search rotation have proven to be lucrative for Netcenter.

    Netcenter posted quarterly revenues of $38.6 million last month.