Lycos Opens Voice Portal Too

One day after Yahoo Inc. introduced telephone voice-access to some of its Internet services, rival search engine Lycos Inc. unveiled its own Web-based voice portal on Wednesday.

Lycos Anywhere uses local phone numbers for the voice portal service in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and metro New York, including northern New Jersey. Lycos used voice-recognition technology from Mobilee Inc. to build the service. Access numbers can be found at http://anywhere.lycos.com/.

Despite the consumer and branding benefits of a nationwide toll-free number, Lycos chose to use local access numbers because "the cost of a traditional 1-800 number is more expensive, and if our cost is less, then we won't have to have as much advertising," said Nick Werthessen, senior product manager for Lycos Anywhere. Local numbers also allow Lycos to target advertising locally, increasing ad revenue, he said.

Lycos' announcement comes a day after Yahoo unveiled its own free telephone service, providing subscribers access to their e-mail, financial information, news and sports headlines as well as free long-distance phone service through the Internet. The timing of Lycos' announcement was coincidental, Werthessen said. "This announcement had been planned for several days," he said.

While both portals provide many of the same services -- news, sports, weather, stock information -- the Lycos voice portal is more fully voice-enabled than the Yahoo service; a caller may speak his or her preferences, rather than work through requests by dialing numbers.

However, the Lycos service will not read e-mail back to customers. Yahoo by Phone users can hear e-mail in their Yahoo! Mail account read to them using text-to-voice speech synthesizers.

Lycos, in Waltham, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-781-370-2700 or at http://www.lycos.com/.

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