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Search Engine Reaches Further

Tuesday Excite@Home, an Internet search engine, announced that it was going to increase its power so that it could begin to cover the entire Internet, rather than the mere 10 percent it now covers.

The company says the new service is easily twice as powerful as its existing search technology, which reaches less than half the content on the Web.

Excite@Home plans to support its new search engine with efforts to simplify the search experience. Even though the existing search services are not comprehensive, they often yield too many results for users to sort through.

Other engines are bound to follow suit following the logic that "bigger is better." Industry analysts say that this may not be a good thing - that the search engines are misguided in their goals.

Jakob Nielsen, co-founder of Web usability consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, told CBS This Morning that he is glad to see search engines recommit to searching, but thinks that their focus should be on the quality, not the quantity.

Excite@Home, which plans to launch the new service in mid-August, says it will provide consumers more quality information than they have been able to receive to date.

Search engines cover about 10 percent of the entire Web, Nielsen says. There are engines out there that combine different engines for greater coverage. If you combine them all, you still only get 25 percent coverage, he says.

While there were 2 million Web pages at end of 1994, there are about 800 million pages now. Nielsen estimates that the count will hit 1 billion in a couple of months.

The problem is not that there is too little information out there; there is too much, he says. A search on a topic on any given engine could produce hundreds of thousands of results. The engines need to figure out ways to determine the quality of Web sites and to narrow down the findings to the top 10 or so results.

All the publicity right now is about the size of an engine. It's easy to convince people that having greater search capacity is the way to go, says Nielsen. But people still won't look past the first results.

Don't stick to one search engine; try a search engine that focuses on quality, rather than quantity, he advises.

For example, Google.com only covers about 10 percent of the Internet, but it gives a quality rating to prioritize search results. It does an analysis of links across the Internet, to see who recommended a site before.

Ultimately, Excite may be trying harder, not smarter, says Nielsen. It is taking the same thing itÂ's had all along and doing more of it. It's getting better, though, and that's good, he says.

This may start a battle between sites, he says, noting competition in search capabilities is good. But when it comes to investing, such sites are overvalued, he says.

Excite@Home was recently formed through the merger of the popular portal Excite and @Home Corp., which povides high-speed Internet access. @Home paid $6.7 billion for Excite in a stock deal that was one of the highest-priced Internet mergers to date.

Business Week Online reported on Monday that the popular Internet portal Yahoo! Inc. was considering buying Excite@Home. However Yahoo! denied the rumor. For more on that story, go to CBS MarketWatch.com.

©1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters contributed to this report

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