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Web sites partner to offer buying advice

Online comparison shopping is about to rise to the next level, with two companies unveiling new services and partnerships today.

Online comparison shopping is about to rise to the next level, with two companies unveiling new services today.

Frictionless Commerce today announced that Lycos has licensed its new comparison shopping technology. By using an online survey, Frictionless Commerce's Value-Comparison Engine helps customers select products--such as VCRs and computers--that best meet their needs on a basis of price, service guarantees, and other customer demands.

Meanwhile, shopping site MySimon today announced a partnership with Active Research. The agreement will allow MySimon customers to access its Active Buyer's Guide, which provides a service similar to Frictionless Commerce's. A MySimon representative said the site will use a select number of the guide's 50 categories and will introduce the service later this month.

MySimon and Frictionless Commerce are part of a growing number of companies trying to provide online consumers with information they need to make purchases, while at the same time pleasing the merchants.

Online shopping assistants hit the spotlight last year, when Inktomi and acquired comparison shopping firms and MySimon launched its site. Since then, the technology has generally languished, buried deep within portal or commerce sites. Many e-commerce sites have been reluctant to list their products on comparison shopping engines, wanting potential buyers to compare based on more than just price.

But in recent months, other sites including Productopia,, and ConsumerReview have begun offering customer and product reviews to online consumers. Productopia and MySimon provide links to each other's services.

Frictionless Commerce's technology was developed at MIT's Media Lab. Among the company's strategic advisers is Pattie Maes, a Media Lab professor and a founder of the Firefly Network.