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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Northern Light Technology LLC revealed this week it is to scrap its well-regarded but low-visibility public web search service to focus on its business-to-business offerings. Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves Inc boasted of increased search usage as a result of the recently completed integration of technology from Teoma Inc, a recent acquisition.

The varying strategies of search firms is a symptom of an industry that has been in flux for at least two years, since the decline of the banner ad business and the storming success of Google Inc's search engine.

Many old favorites have had problems: Infoseek is dead, Excite is probably dead, and AltaVista is increasingly under-supported as the cash-strapped company focuses on its enterprise products.

On Tuesday, Northern Light added itself to that list, announcing its search site will close on January 16 so the company can focus on selling software to businesses.

"Over the past year, Northern Light has seen booming demand for search, classification, taxonomy, and content solutions from our enterprise customers and marketing partners," said CEO David Seuss. "Meanwhile, the business model for free, advertising-supported, public Web search has not been developing for us."

Ask Jeeves, which is doggedly pursuing both ad-supported and enterprise opportunities, says it has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of click-throughs on search results since it started using Teoma, and has seen site abandonment decrease 15 per cent.

Teoma, one of the self-styled "Google-killers" that emerged early last year, uses a method of on-the-fly categorization of results by scanning its index for common word groupings. The engine also finds sites that act as "hubs" of big topic-specific link lists to act as authoritative sources.

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