The companies said they will create detailed search engines for sites that don't want to build engines themselves. The terms of the deal give LookSmart use of Inktomi's search and directory technology to offer pared-down versions to Web sites. Inktomi will license and resell LookSmart's directory as an added feature on the recently launched Directory Engine, an automated Web directory.
The idea for the partnership stems from the growing popularity of category-specific Web sites, or what the industry has labeled "vertical portals," the companies said. In contrast to more general Web sites such as Yahoo and AOL.com, vertical portals focus their content on specific topics, such as music, finance, or news.
"What we're seeing out there is the specific driving out the general," Evan Thornley, LookSmart chief executive, said in an interview.
For example, media and entertainment giant Time Warner plans to launch a handful of vertical hubs for categories including news, personal finance, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle.
But the question remains whether companies that charge partners for their search and directory services can remain viable options as services come on the scene such as Open Directory, which does not charge partners to use its site. The Open Directory Project, run by AOL subsidiary Netscape, solicits editing efforts from volunteers on the Web.
LookSmart and Inktomi have not announced any partnerships, but deals will be "forthcoming," according to Inktomi chief executive David Peterschmidt. He said companies in search of specific requirements for their sites have expressed interest.
"They are heavy players with very stringent requirements for what they want," Peterschmidt said in reference to the interested companies. "And this is a tool that would allow new, emerging portals to have a directory if they didn't want to hire a lot of human editors."