InfoSpace's Dogpile and Terra Lycos' Hotbot both released new versions of their search toolbars, boasting features such as streaming headlines and the ability to search local computer files.
Search toolbars are downloaded applications that sit on the top of a user's Web browser, allowing them to search from any Web page. The crowded search toolbar market is dominated by offerings from search giants like Google and Yahoo; most search engines offer their own toolbars with the ability to search and add-ons like pop-up blockers.
The new Dogpile toolbar, available for free, looks to capitalize on the popularity of the RSS (really simple syndication) and Atom formats, which are used by thousands of Web sites to send information and headlines to users' computers.
InfoSpace licenses the Dogpile toolbar to Web sites like ABCNews.com that want to use it as a way to keep connected with users when they are not on the site. ABCNews.com streams its latest headlines to the toolbar via the RSS feed. Dogpile also powers toolbars for FoxNews.com.
“When the consumer is not on the partner's site, they're still able to maintain that relationship with the consumer because the toolbar will follow the consumer through his Internet activities,” said Leslie Grandy, vice president of product management at Infospace's search unit.
Not to be outdone, the Hotbot Desktop also has RSS feeds, as well as the ability to search for documents on the hard drive, including MS Office files, Outlook e-mail, and most text-based file formats. Lycos claimed the toolbar, developed in conjunction with Argo Technology, is the first desktop search engine available.
Hotbot said the free toolbar would eliminate the need to switch between applications to search for relevant information.
The ability to marry both local and Internet search has caught Microsoft's eye. The software giant plans to include its new search engine as part of its next version of the Windows operating system, allowing users to search both Internet and local computer files. Microsoft is not expected to release the new operating system until 2006.
Grandy said the addition of news feeds would spur more user searches, which InfoSpace provides through a collection of paid and algorithmic search from other search engines. Dogpile splits revenue generated from paid searches with its distribution partners.
“There is a consumer behavior that's common to look at news and then drill down and get more,” she said. “We find that our data has shown that with active users of the toolbar we're seeing two times increase in search activity.”
Brian Morrissey covers search marketing for DM News.com. To keep up with the latest search marketing news subscribe to our free e-mail weekly newsletter Search Engine Marketing by visiting //www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/newslettersub.cgi .