Boosts Buyers' Guide

SAN FRANCISCO (03/01/2000) - Inc. greets the online world this week with a new look and a new mission, launching a redesign that positions the site as a buyer's portal.

The new centers on a Precision Buying Service, but also offers good news for longtime users. A new area launching soon,, offers direct access to the company's vast Usenet archive that gave the company its start in 1995.

The new Precision Buying Service builds on Deja Ratings, a feature introduced when Deja News became last May. Deja Ratings--where users rate products ranging from videos to cars to vitamins--is rolled into the new Precision Buying Service. There you'll find a pumped-up buyer's guide based on extensive product listings, ratings and reviews, and price and availability information.

Here's how it works: If you're shopping for a new ink jet printer, head to the Printers section of's Computing & Tech channel. You'll see a list of printers that have received high ratings from users. Links lead to a listing of all ink jet printers in's product database, and to a product wizard.

From the product listings, you can get details about a particular model, or choose printers to compare side by side. The wizard lets you specify which ink jet features are important to you, and generates a custom listing of printers.

At any point, you can return to user-supplied ratings and reviews (or add your own), read relevant Usenet postings, compare prices from various online merchants, or go to a reseller site to place an order. Within a few weeks, will add links to reviews in industry publications as well.

Blast From the Past

The full Precision Buying Service feature set, including the product wizard, is now available only in's Computing & Tech channel. The feature set will appear in the Arts & Entertainment channel in March, and in other channels, including Automotive and Recreation, within a few months.

Usenet searches--which gave the company its start--still generate considerable traffic, says Tom Phillips, president and chief executive officer.

Since last May, the Usenet archive has been muddied by superfluous links from Deja Ratings. While some people combing the archive followed those links, many resented them. Now that the consumer side of is popular, Phillips says, it's time to resurrect old-style Usenet searches.

Enter, a new area that harkens back to the site's early days as an archive of the Net's discussion groups. This section of the site will go live this week. A link at the top of's home page takes you to a hierarchical view of Usenet. As in the Deja News of old, you can browse and search groups, and read postings without ratings links getting in the way.

Phillips also notes that the company remains fully committed to the Usenet archive. This may allay fears among Usenet users that eventually intends to jettison its immense store of postings.

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