Excite@Home update 'Zooms In' on searches

Excite@Home Inc., still trying to make the Web easier to use, has revamped its Precision Search service on Excite.com so you can "Zoom In" on a topic, refine your search, and even misspell your subject.

"People still find searches frustrating," says Lynne Mariani, director of product management for search and directory at Excite@Home. They have a hard time describing what they're looking for, and the new Zoom In feature is designed to address that, she says.

So, for example, if you type in the word "rosacea" and click Zoom In, you get helpful additional words such as "acne rosacea," "ocular rosacea," and "National Rosacea Society." Click the Apply and Search button, and the Precision search uses the combination of words for more refined results.

Zoom In also offers spell-check capabilities, Mariani says. Incorrect spellings doom a search, so when you Zoom In, the tool offers possible alternative spellings to your word.

For example, "Britney Spears only has one t," she says. Zoom In can catch that typo, offer you the correct spelling, and send you on your way to a better search, she says.

You'll find the Zoom In feature when conducting searches through both the regular Excite.com portal and the stripped-down, search-specific Precision Search site.

Evolution of search

Excite@Home launched Precision Search last June. Before that, Excite.com had lost its focus on search, and it showed, Mariani says.

While maintaining its full set of portal services, Excite.com returned its focus to its roots: searches, she says. Search engines are the second-most-used tool on the Internet, after e-mail, she says. Plus, search can be profitable to a company that does it well.

Precision Search has been received favorably, she says. The volume was a testament to the improvement. The bad news was realizing just how far the standard service had slipped.

Developers began working last September on the Zoom In feature, Mariani says. To make it work, they analyzed the search logs generated by Precision Search users. The resulting technology looks at the word combinations people use most, combines that with the capability to relate different concepts, then generates the Zoom In suggestions, she says.

Besides the Zoom In feature, developers are working on an update to Precision Search, Mariani says. It's due to launch next quarter.

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