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WhoWhere makes spate of deals

Portal firms are enjoying a wild ride on Wall Street lately, but behind-the-scenes players also are cashing in on portal fever.

Portal firms are enjoying a wild ride on Wall Street lately, but behind-the-scenes players also are cashing in on portal fever.

One such player is WhoWhere, a provider of email and home page technology, yellow- and white-page listings, classified ads, and other information on the Web.

The Mountain View, California-based Portalopoly firm today announced it has signed on 10 new partners, bringing its roster up to 40. Among them are heavyweights such as Barnes & Noble, Deja News, Individual Investor, FindLaw, and

WhoWhere will provide back-end applications such as email, personal home page building, or directory services that are "private-labeled" for the partners.

"We are kind of leveraging the fact that people view the Net as a place to create these communities and affinity groups," said Mike Armistead, senior vice president of products and marketing for WhoWhere.

The firm a year ago began to private-label its services for ISPs and larger sites such as Excite. Since then, the race to become users' Net gateway has taken off, and sites have been bending over backward to provide communication services such as free email, community in the form of free Web pages, and the like.

Whereas the portals have to compete with each other as well as any content site that decides it wants to be a Net gateway, back-end technology providers such as WhoWhere stand to gain tremendously by offering services that are in demand to any number of portal competitors.

Armistead noted that WhoWhere's strategy is to be a "one-stop shop" providing directories, email, and home page services to portals and others looking to be "destination sites."

All the portal players--Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and others--offer free email, with some powered by WhoWhere and others by competitors such as iName and InfoSpace. Free home pages and community also have become standard among the portals; Infoseek added free home pages just last month.

WhoWhere offers its Web-based email product MailCity to 34 partners. The firm said its registered-user base has doubled within the last six months.

The company acquired online community Angelfire in October last year for its home page technology. The firm said Angelfire now has 1.1 million users. Barnes & Noble and Net community gURL are using WhoWhere to power home page offerings.

The gURL community is following the lead of other Net communities such as Tripod and GeoCities in offering free home pages, with the hope that a large, active community will draw more advertising dollars. But Barnes & Noble's approach is more directly revenue-generating: It wants users to build sites so they can sell books via the company's affiliate program.

When asked if WhoWhere had plans to cash in on its success via an IPO or if there were buyout suitors, Armistead said "both could be possibilities" but that it is "too soon to comment."