AOLs Singingfish Fine-Tunes Multimedia Search

The audio and video search engine aims to become a search destination with new features for personalizing and refining queries.

America Online Inc.s audio and video search division is getting ready for prime time as it focuses on becoming a destination site.

Singingfish Inc., which AOL acquired a year ago, will announce on Wednesday a set of new search features on its site that let users save and share queries, refine searches and discover new multimedia content.

The revamp aims to take advantage of a growing number of users coming to to find streaming audio and video, said Karen Howe, vice president and general manager of Singingfish.

Based in Seattle, Singingfish indexes more than 14 million audio and video streams and files in such formats as Windows Media, Real, QuickTime and MP3.

"What this enables us to do with the relaunch is to start to push what peoples expectations are around search and what they can do with audio/video search," Howe said.

Singingfish previously had provided search capabilities on its Web site, but the site served more as a demonstration to customers wanting to license its multimedia search engine. Customers include Microsoft Corp.s Windows Media, RealNetworks Inc. and InfoSpace Inc.

But over the past year, the volume of queries on has grown rapidly, from a few thousand queries a day to about 700,000 currently, Howe said. When its third-party customers are included, Singingfish handles about 7 million queries a day.

Among the major search engines, multimedia search remains scarce. Besides AOL, Yahoo Inc. provides audio and video search through its AltaVista and AlltheWeb search sites. AltaVista, which Yahoo acquired with its purchase of Overture Services, was one of the first engines to launch a multimedia search index.

With its update, Singingfish is adding basic personalization features. Users can save common queries and e-mail them to friends. They also can refine their searches by selecting to return only audio or video, by choosing specific format types, by setting the duration of clips to be searched and by filtering out adult content.

Singingfish has created seven categories such as finance, music and news in which users can search for multimedia content. All of the search settings can be saved as preferences.

Most multimedia searchers fall into two camps, Howe said. They either search for specific songs or artists or explore for new content. To help the explorers, Singingfish added a button called "Im Bored," which sends users to sites where they can browse video clips.

Another area of the site lists the most popular searches and staff selections.

Singingfish powers the multimedia search features on AOLs main search site, but none of the new features has crossed over so far, Howe said.

"What were able to do is to be the experimental playground," Howe said. "It will be great to try [features] on and see what the results are and then push out novel ideas. Those ideas that work will find themselves in other implementations."

A beta of the revamped Singingfish search site has been available for about a week, and Howe said Singingfish plans to roll out a series of new features and service over the next year.


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