With data retrieval technology from Fact City, Web surfers using Lycos.com will be able to type a question and receive answers rather than the typical slew of links.
Terra Lycos' move makes it one of many Internet companies attempting to expand content and services in an effort to gain a wider audience amid the dot-com downturn. As technology giants are cutting costs and employees, they are focusing efforts on deals that give small companies real estate on their sites in exchange for services that could entice new customers.
"Any device that can assist in optimizing search results will be a big benefit to users," said John Megahed, director of research and analysis for PC Data. "There's a need to introduce some ease of use and some better results. So (if) Fact City can introduce better results to the search key word context, that will be a phenomenal thing."
Megahed said that the ask-and-advice area is continuing to grow on the Web. Between 5 million and 7 million people per month are going to such sites, according to PC Data.
Terra Lycos is not the only company seeking to enhance its search service. High-speed Internet service provider Excite@Home, which laid off about 8 percent of its work force in January, is set to launch a new search tool in early March. Dubbed Zoom In, the tool is expected to improve the response time and relevance of search results. Zoom In will sit beside the search button on Excite.com and will offer different ways to look at queries through a list of 15 to 20 "search suggestions."
Fact City, which provides technology for sites such as iWon, ESPN.com and FoxSports.com, is betting that its services will provide people with faster access to information as well as richer content. The Waltham, Mass.-based company said that through Monday's deal it will link Lycos.com with databases from sources including reference data company Houghton-Mifflin, business data company Thomson Financial, music sites Billboard and Muze, the Internet Movie Database, and sports statistics company STATS.
"There are a lot of search engines in the world that kind of scour for information that you're looking for," said Fact City Chief Executive Eric Ziering. "We look at a question and pull directly related information from databases and deliver it to you."
It's the first offering from Terra Lycos that will provide TV information on the 17,900 programs broadcast since 1936, including cast, characters, crew, run time, rating and genre.