[email protected] is launching a new search engine today, aimed at making search results more relevant and easier to navigate.

The update comes after similar moves by other major portals, who are paying closer attention to search functions as dedicated search sites continue to purloin traffic from megaportals.

[email protected]'s new search engine is called Excite Precision Search, and will be implemented at Excite.com and [email protected]'s broadband network, according to Abbot Chambers, senior director of search and directory projects for [email protected] Excite Precision Search has already been integrated into the Excite.com portal.

More and less Lycos.com announced that it now indexes 340 million Web pages, and AltaVista recently unveiled Raging Search, a stripped-down search engine that attempts to lure "high-end" Net veterans to its service.

Experts say such moves reflect concern on the part of Excite, AltaVista, and Lycos that serious searchers are increasingly turning to up-and-coming services such as Google.com and Direct Hit, as well as to more established ones such as Northern Light.

The introduction of Excite Precision Search at Excite.com will not change the look and feel of the home page. However, the query results will look very different, presented in a cleaner and simpler format.

Minimum fuss Instead of mixing [email protected] content, audio and video files, and links to news articles within search results, Excite Precision Search displays only URLs and the abbreviated site descriptions. Multimedia content and related information can still be found by using the advanced-search options listed at the top of the search results page.

Links to [email protected] content are boxed and displayed to the left of the search results, and banner ads and commerce partners are de-emphasized.

New to Excite.com is the way in which the site ranks the relevancy of search results. Chambers says the company has improved its search technology to cull results more effectively from a growing list of 250 million Web pages, delivering more-relevant searches.

Previously, [email protected] analyzed Web pages and determined the most relevant based on how many other pages linked to a particular site. The more links to a Web page, [email protected] concluded, the better the site, and the higher the site would appear in search results. Now, [email protected] analyzes the links that lead to the destination sites. Chambers says the new search strategy helps it deliver the best Web sites available.

Chambers says: "Users want to see relevant results front and centre with minimal clutter, that's what we're aiming to give them."