Launched in Asia: Universal search technology

Many search engines do a pretty good job at finding what you want on the Web... that is, if you are not looking for multimedia files of Pamela Anderson. But what if you are?

Many search engines do a pretty good job at finding what you want on the Web...that is, if you are not looking for the multimedia files of Pamela Anderson.

SINGAPORE--The problem is that while the Internet is no longer text-dominated, its search engines often are, frustrating surfers who want multimedia files. And their number is increasing, even as broadband access becomes more affordable.

Lycos Asia agrees that a tool that helps users find text pages is just not enough. The joint venture between Terra Lycos and SingTel has licensed technology by Norwegian firm Fast Search & Transfer ASA's (FAST). FAST has created a search tool that promises to refine the search process to the point where users can specify the file type they want, whether it be text, images, audio or video.

The pan Asian portal operator embarked on the project last December to enhance the search functionalities of its 11 country-specific sites in Asia. Yesterday, it announced the complete roll out of its upgraded search engine for its all its sites: in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.

"Looking at the way Internet technology is evolving and how Asian users are getting more savvy about surfing for information, we have to constantly examine our products and services, and look into various ways of improving and providing the best user experience possible," explained Lycos Asia vice president of marketing Bernard Chan in a release.

Lycos Asia also revealed that it plans to spend upwards of S$4 million on a two-month campaign for two months to promote the use of its search function in the region. The same function is also available on Terra Lycos' European and US sites.

"Lycos Search is one of the core services we provide at all our sites in the region to assist our users in the retrieval of information over the Internet," said Chan. "The start of this campaign will mark the completion of the product enhancement and at the same time, draw the attention of our existing and potential users to the powerful features of our search engine."

Indeed, the features are impressive. The Web catalog indexes more than 600 million full-text Web pages, including more than 17 million Chinese language documents.

The tool is capable of finding almost everything you want, or shouldn't want but might want anyway.

A search for "pornography" caused a warning to pop up.

The Web pages you are about to view contain material that is intended for responsible adults who are:
1. over 21 years old and over the age of legal consent in the locations in which they live and are accessing these web pages. ; and
2. permitted to access Web pages which may include images, text, graphics, sounds, illustrations, or descriptions of nudity and sexual activity in the locations in which they live and are accessing these Web pages."

After all these provisos, it informed us the search returned no results.

However, a search for images of "chicks" did turn up pictures of baby chickens, dead chickens and a naked woman.

Music fans hoping to find MP3s will probably be disappointed. Although the tool allows users to opt for "MP3" searches, basically, it turned up official and fan sites of singers, both pop and classical. Lycos Asia is obviously not about to take on thre recording industry over copyrights.