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Infospace to offer e-shopping service

"ActiveShopper" will be integrated with the rest of Infospace's product line, which includes maps, phone directories, and classified ads, for use by other Web sites.

Infospace, which provides "private label" content for Web portals and Internet appliances, is readying a shopping service that aggregates product and buying information from around the Web in one place.

The ActiveShopper service will be integrated with other Infospace products, which include maps, phone directories, and classified ads. Infospace's cobranded content is available on about 1,500 sites including America Online, Netscape and go2net.

As e-commerce grows, portals are looking for ways to help consumers easily search for low prices on the Internet. Excite, Inktomi, Amazon, and mySimon all provide comparison shopping services.

Infospace's ActiveShopper service will include a range of product data beyond price comparisons. It will also alert them about sale prices and auctions, point to reviews and discussion groups that focus on the product, and tell them if the product is available from catalog or traditional retailers.

"Our goal is to do the same thing with commerce as we did with content," said Infospace Chief Executive Naveen Jain.

Several Web sites, including Lycos, CMP Media, Xoom.com, TechWave, and Catalog City are running internal pilot ActiveShopper programs. It will be available to the public by the middle of this year.

Analysts say Jain's concept of packaging and selling content is likely to become increasingly popular as Web sites and service providers turn to third parties to expand their offerings in an effort to keep users from surfing off into other domains.

"Let's face it, the big portal guys can't specialize in everything," said analyst Peggy Ledvina of Dain Rauscher Wessels. "Why not cut a deal with someone who can supply the content they need?"

Reuters contributed to this story.