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PLS promises power search

Personal Library Software will unveil an Internet search engine that lets users access proprietary online databases next Thursday at the Internet World Conference.

CNET News staff
3 min read
Personal Library Software will unveil an Internet search engine that lets users access proprietary online databases next Thursday at the Internet World Conference

PLS, a leading supplier of information retrieval software, developed the new engine slugged AT1, which promises to let people search non-HTML formatted documents as well as databases that aren't now available on the Internet, said AT1 spokesman Michael Kassin.

PLS is also the creator of PLWeb Turbo, a searchable Web site index builder; PLSync, an add-on utility for database maintenance and PersonaL [sic] Agent, which allows Web users to submit "intelligent queries" that periodically search full-text databases and alert them to developments.

Most of the "proprietary" content currently searchable on the Web is fee-based such as IBM Infomarket Service, which is also a PLS partner. Some universities and libraries also offer such materials over the Web through authentication.

But PLS, boasts that AT1 will be the only engine that allows surfers into a wealth of such databases. Fees will to be up to the individual content providers, according to information provided by PLS.

Although PLS is keeping a lid on specific features of the search engine, including the names of content providers, some industry analysts have already gotten a peek at the new engine.

One analyst familiar with AT1 said the concept is valuable. However, he is skeptical about how content providers will benefit from releasing their information to PLS.

"The reason the proprietary content isn't up on the Internet is that there really aren't good mechanisms for content providers to get paid and to protect their rights to the content," he said. "The idea is a good one, but a lot of other infrastructures have to be built before this information can be searched."

Even if PLS is sitting on a gold mine of never-before-searchable content, John Robb, senior analyst for ="http: www.forrester.com="" "="">Forrester Research says, big navigation hubs like Yahoo and Excite have too strong a hold on the market.

"Yahoo and Excite will suck the air out of everyone else. These guys are getting so big they'll pull in all the big advertisers," he said.

He said PLS would be better off selling its new engine to Yahoo or Excite.

"If companies have the content why would it go to this non-brand name company on the Internet? If I had content I would go to a Yahoo. That would generate advertising and make me money."

The issue of copyright protection of databases is one of the big issues being discussed right now at the World Intellectual Property Organization Diplomatic Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where a controversial treaty has been proposed to classify databases as intellectual property making them subject to copyright infringement laws.

PLS would not discuss copyright issues surrounding the AT1 engine, but its potential content providers may be some of the largest protectors of information.

An analyst said it's safe to assume that PLS's initial content providers for AT1 will be its existing partners that include America Online, Apple Computer, Hewlett Packard, Knight-Ridder, Groiler Interactive, IBM Infomarket Service, DataTimes, National Public Radio, News Net, and the Department of Energy and House of Representatives.