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Start-up aims to make a "Quiq" buck via communities

A company called Quiq has developed a technology that allows Web sites to create online communities and lets them turn around and gain knowledge from what is talked about inside.

A California start-up is trying to turn online communities back into hot commodities.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Quiq has developed a technology that allows Web sites to create online communities and lets them turn around and gain knowledge from what is talked about inside.

For an e-commerce site such as ChipCenter.com, for example, Quiq's technology can rate dialog among customers, in-house experts, suppliers and partners to make it easy for people to get answers to their questions. In turn, this can reduce customer service costs.

"Quiq-powered companies can build a valuable knowledge base from user-generated content within their communities for use in online commerce, customer service, marketing and product development," said Greg Richardson, Quiq's chief executive.

While Quiq seeks to make communities lucrative and productive, many other online communities have lost their luster.

Home page communities such as TheGlobe.com, GeoCities and Xoom.com--once the darlings of the Internet--have become dull to investors and those who once thought they could develop them as standalone businesses. Nevertheless, analysts say that such companies are acquisition targets because of their beefy traffic and rapt audiences.

As a result, communities built to fuel business projects and mitigate the need for customer service could have potential in the online market, analysts say.

Another customer of Quiq's is Ask Jeeves, the popular question and answer Web site, which uses Quiq's technology to power its newly launched community area, AnswerPoint. Ask Jeeves said it plans to use knowledge gained from the community to provide answers for its search engine by early next year.

Opened in March, AnswerPoint lets people post questions on a variety of topics and get answers from other community members. The community already has more than 500,000 members and generates about 100,000 answers per month.

"We'll marry the community and search engine databases so that regardless of what part of the site you're searching on, you'll get answers from both the community area and the Ask.com site," said Stephanie Bennett, product-marketing manager for AnswerPoint.

ChipCenter, a marketplace for electronic components, is launching an online community this week powered by Quiq. The marketplace gives members the ability to search for topics of interest and then personalize the service. Through labels, it also lets members find experts on a given topic.

"ChipCenter's 'Ask the Expert' will extend our marketplace's ability to provide peer and expert information to designers working" under shortened work schedules, chief executive Girish Mhatre said in a statement. "We expect to increase sales and customer retention by providing personalized knowledge to ChipCenter visitors."

ChipCenter is backed by some of the largest electronic components distributors, including Arrow Electronics, Avnet and Pioneer-Standard Electronics.

Other features will allow community members to receive email about specific topics as soon as a message is posted to the site. Members can also apply to be more of an expert on a given topic.