The new service, called AOL Search, will launch later this fall, AOL said. AOL is previewing it in its proprietary service and expects to use it throughout its other Web-based properties, including Netcenter and CompuServe.
Until now, getting to specific areas within AOL required typing in a "keyword" or clicking on a specific channel on the navigation bar. But with AOL Search, finding areas in the online service more or less resembles finding content on the Web.
"It's a redesign of the overall search function," said Wendy Goldberg, an AOL spokeswoman.
She added that AOL Search will combine internal search technology and outside search partnerships.
Already, AOL has signed on Inktomi as one of its external search partners. Excite has been powering AOL's Web search products, such as AOL NetFind. But with the Inktomi partnership signed last week, Goldberg said Inktomi's search technology will replace Excite's.
AOL has changed its relationship with Excite given cable Net access firm @Home's acquisition of Excite and AOL's acquisition of Netscape Communications. AOL is embroiled in a battle with @Home and others over high-speed Internet access over cable.
AOL wants to offer a high-speed cable access service to its members. But cable companies argue that they built the networks and don't want to open them up to their competitors.
A court recently upheld a ruling in Portland, Oregon, to require cable operators to open their lines to outside competitors. AT&T, the largest cable provider in the country, and the largest shareholder in @Home, appealed the ruling last week.