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WebCrawler weaves new look

Excite gives its WebCrawler search engine a facelift and a host of new features.

Excite (XCIT) today will dust the cobwebs off its WebCrawler search engine, giving it a facelift and new features.

As previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM, a primary feature of the overhaul is a service called "shortcuts." Users who search for "garden tools," for example, will get a list of garden-related Web sites with shortcuts such as a link to classified ads that offer gardening equipment. Excite has partnered with Classifieds2000 to offer the service.

The makeover of one of the Web's first search engines comes amid cutthroat industry competition. Companies that operate Internet search engines and directories, including Excite, Yahoo, and Infoseek, are battling to differentiate themselves by offering new features--and generate ad dollars.

Today's announcement comes only days after Intuit said it would buy a 19 percent stake in Excite and help it develop a financial channel for the flagship Excite search engine. Excite bought WebCrawler from America Online last November in a deal that doubled AOL's ownership in Excite from 10 to 20 percent.

Some of the changes are purely cosmetic: The old logo on WebCrawler showed a spider "surfing" the Net on a board, complete with cobweb. Now the cobweb is gone.

More substantively, the revamped WebCrawler will add content from N2K's Music Boulevard, MapQuest, DejaNews, and WhoWhere?.