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Yahoo! has launched its new price comparison service, the latest salvo in the battle for dominance in the Internet search space.

Yesterday, the company opened the doors to its new Yahoo! Shopping service, which lets users search for products sold over the Web. More than 10,000 e-stores are listed on the new service and the company claims the ease with which consumers can compare prices is one of its biggest advantages.

The site's search capability is built on technology from Inktomi, which Yahoo! bought earlier this year.

More significantly, the relaunch of Yahoo! Shopping opens the newest front in the Internet search battle, a space that Google and Overture are fighting to control. In July, Yahoo! announced plans to acquire Overture, effectively turning the Internet paid-for search rivalry into a fight between Yahoo! and Google (other contenders are Findwhat.com and Espotting which will merge, if they can agree a price- Ed).

Overture partner Microsoft is also said to be gearing up its own assault on the sector and it is expected that MSN will come forward with its own souped-up search technology, although no official announcements have been made.

In the Internet search market, the biggest payout comes from paid keyword ads, which are text-only advertisements that appear alongside normal search results. It's an ad format that Overture claims to have invented, although Google has taken it to heart and both are profiting handsomely from it.

Conversely, Yahoo!'s new Yahoo Shopping search service is reminiscent of Google's Froogle.com, a service that was launched last year. But both Yahoo! and Google are only the latest entrants in the e-shopping price comparison sector, and both will need to shut out the likes of Dealtime and Pricegrabber.com, which have been in the space for longer and, according to analysts, have more sophisticated offerings.

Yesterday, Dealtime relaunched as Shopping.com and also changed its corporate name, reincarnating the once-hyped URL formerly owned by AltaVista. The new version of the site incorporates content from Epinions, a recently acquired company, that publishes product reviews by readers. According to Nielsen/NetRatings Dealtime is one of the top sites of its kind, reaching about 8 per cent of the Internet audience.

However, DealTime's share compares to about 11 per cent for the existing Yahoo Shopping service, which was launched five years ago and is considered the biggest on-line shopping centre. Froogle, meanwhile, gets just 0.3 per cent of the share.

Nielsen has said the Internet price comparison sites overall captured 15 per cent of the on-line audience last year, compared to just 9 per cent in 2001, leaving plenty of room for growth. ®

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