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Excite searches for higher profile

Excite is adding a new look and features to raise its profile among search engines.

    Excite today launched a new look and new features in an effort to stand out in the crowded search engine market.

    Excite will debut a new interface designed to allow users to navigate more easily among the services it offers. The front page of the service will revamped to showcase the search engine, with sections with such headings as Reviews, City.Net, News, and Reference located underneath.

    Section content will be rearranged, too. The Reviews area will feature a variety of reviews editors on their own section pages. A former editor and reporter from the National Law Journal who covered the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post now runs Excite's Legal section, and a former section editor from the Los Angeles Times now runs the Business/Shopping section. The editors will be reviewing Web sites and presenting a question of the week designed to help people extract information from the Web.

    The intent is to put a more friendly face on the sometimes intimidating size and anonymity of the Internet for new and less experienced users. As an additional guide, each site will have a rating next to it.

    While none of the changes is groundbreaking, Excite has concentrated on packaging them to generate user loyalty to the site. "Consumers really want to get the best out of the Web, but those using our service were not really using the breadth of services we offered," said David Szee, director of marketing for Excite. "We think we've put together a service that gets the customer to where they want to be with a variety of tools...Users will benefit from a richer experience."

    The driving question in the search engine market is whether the companies will be richer for the experience. Recent quarterly results showed a growth in income for search and directory companies such as Excite, Yahoo, and Infoseek, but none has come close to posting profits or has been in business long enough to make meaningful comparisons on revenue growth.

    Still, that has not discouraged expansion. Yahoo has started offering personalized news feeds, a city guide for San Francisco, and is even planning on a foray into television content. Digital Equipment and Yahoo signed a deal in early June that updated Yahoo's ability to find sites by using Digital's AltaVista, search engine.

    Infoseek has its own customized news service and has updated its search technology, and Wired magazine got into the search engine act this year with HotBot but experienced a slew of problems at its inauguration that have limited its popularity.

    In June, Excite merged with another search engine company, Magellan, which is best known for its rating system. However, Magellan's search site probably won't be merged into the Excite site anytime soon, according to Szee. The two will experiment with different technologies and marketing strategies, rather than attempt to be all things to all people, he said.

    Szee says Excite will be launching a major advertising campaign to promote the changes and believes that the company is moving fast enough to overtake market leader Yahoo by next year.

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