Ask Jeeves Acquires Bloglines

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Ask Jeeves Inc. on Tuesday said it has acquired Trustic Inc., giving the search engine the latter company's Bloglines news-feed service that could one day be adapted to boost online retail sales.

In addition, the Bloglines online service provides searching, subscribing and publishing blogs, which are personal web journals that span nearly every imaginable topic. The affect on public opinion of blog writers was highlighted last year when the most popular were invited to cover the Democratic National Convention.

Bloglines's service for aggregating RSS feeds, however, hold more potential in the way of e-commerce, some experts say. RSS, or rich site summary, is a format for news and content syndication, in which headlines and links to the actual content are made available to Web sites. With the Bloglines service, users choose the RSS feeds they want and view them through their personal reader.

From an online retail perspective, RSS technology could be adapted to feed updates on products selected by consumers, Niki Scevak, analyst for JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia Corp., said. For example, a person interested in buying a digital camera could ask for an RSS feed on prices and new features over the next several weeks.

"With RSS, the opportunity is there to bring a more persistent relationship with the search engine," Scevak said. "Some purchasing decisions are often made over a period of weeks, if not months."

Before search engines can use RSS for this purpose, however, a number of business issues would need to be worked out, Scevak said. For example, the distributors and creators of the content would have to come to agreement on ownership of the data and on a revenue-sharing plan.

"This is early on," Scevak said. "In terms of the revenue opportunity today, it's extremely minimal."

Ask Jeeves' major rivals, Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., have blog services in various stages of development. Yahoo is the furthest along in the use of RSS technology, Scevak said,

Bloglines, which was founded in 2003, indexes more than 280 million web content elements that are updated regularly, including RSS news feeds, blogs, images, audio and video, officials with Oakland, Calif.-based, Ask Jeeves said. The service is available in seven languages, including Chinese and Japanese.

"Bloglines is a natural fit for our multi-brand portfolio, as we extend our information retrieval services to encompass the rapidly growing amount of dynamic content and information available in the blogosphere," Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties at Ask Jeeves, said in a statement.

Bloglines chief executive Mark Fletcher said Ask Jeeves would make it possible to "accelerate our growth with access to millions of unique visitors to Ask Jeeves' properties."

"We are eager to take advantage of Ask Jeeves' support, extensive resources, operational scale and innovative technologies to expand and improve the services we deliver to users," said Fletcher, who will join Ask Jeeves as vice president and general manager of Bloglines.

Ask Jeeves plans to leverage Bloglines' RSS aggregation capabilities across its search and portal brands. Starting on Tuesday, Bloglines' search capabilities are powered by Ask Jeeves' technology.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. Trustic was privately held.

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