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Changes Afoot at HotBot

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HotBot is using new names for three of the four engines it searches, but results are still provided by the original sources.

"We have continued to do usability testing to refine the product and one of the things that keeps coming back is that users don't know Inktomi, FAST, and Teoma," said Tom Wilde, general manager of search services for Lycos and HotBot. "But when tested against the brands HotBot, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves, almost all users recognize the names."

The new HotBot interface uses the more recognizable names. "HotBot" results are powered by Inktomi. "Lycos" results are powered by Overture's AlltheWeb search engine (formerly owned by FAST), and "Ask Jeeves" results come from the Teoma database.

"Calling Inktomi HotBot made sense because Inktomi has powered HotBot since the product's original launch and is the default provider," said Wilde.

Why not use Overture to label AlltheWeb results? "Switching the name FAST to Overture made no sense because Overture is still synonymous with paid listings in the users minds," said Wilde.

Default search results are still provided by HotBot (Inktomi). However, HotBot now remembers the index you last searched in and defaults to that index upon your next visit to the search engine. You can also change the default provider setting in the preferences section of the site.

Wilde also says that HotBot now supports spell correction on all four providers using their own unique approaches. "There are subtle differences in the performance of each," says Wilde. He suggested using the misspelled "massachussets" as an example to compare the results.

These changes are part of an ongoing effort by Lycos to revive and improve HotBot. The company gave the search engine a major overhaul in December 2002, adding Google, FAST and Teoma results as well as a variety of new advanced features.

Earlier this month, Lycos announced a deal with LookSmart that will include LookSmart listings in Lycos search results. When the change occurs in the third quarter, ten "commercial" LookSmart listings will appear in the web results section on Lycos above AllTheWeb results and below Overture for about 50,000 keywords, according to Wilde.

In separate news, Ask Jeeves is dropping the use of their cartoon butler character from the company's advertising. The character will remain on the site, however.

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