Services & Software

Search engines rev up services

Search companies Excite and LookSmart join the trend to expand services, forge partnerships, and enter the global marketplace.

Search engine companies are expanding again.

Excite today inked a deal with StarMedia Network to offer search services in Spanish and Portuguese to Latin Americans. StarMedia Network is an online media company targeting Latin America. Its backers include Chase Capital Partners, Flatiron Partners, and Henry Kravis's New York City Investment Fund.

It is the latest attempt to tap the growing Latin American market. In July, Inktomi announced an alliance with Universo Online, Brazil's leading online content provider, to launch a search engine for the South American market. Earlier this month, Cable News Network rolled out a Spanish-language news service called CNNenEspanol, based on its English-language CNN Web site.

"Seven million Latin Americans are surfing the Internet," said Brett Bullington, executive vice president of Excite. Latin American spending on computers and other information technology will grow at more than 18 percent per year through 2000, higher than the nearly 11 percent annual increases that are expected worldwide, according to a study earlier this year by International Data Corporation.

Search engine companies, led by Yahoo and Excite, have been rapidly expanding in foreign markets. They are being joined by online services such as America Online and CompuServe. All of them see moneymaking opportunities in markets where PC penetration is poised to expand faster than in the United States.

Also today, LookSmart said it struck a deal with @Home to be the Web directory for @Home users. The agreement is set to last for two years. "This partnership is a good combination of two companies concentrating on bringing the Internet to the mass market," said Evan Thornley, chief executive of LookSmart, in a statement.

LookSmart provides navigation services for Netscape in Australia and the United Kingdom. @Home, whose owners include Cox, Comcast, and Tele-Communications Inc., provides high-speed Net access to consumers and businesses via cable systems.