July 8, 2003 2:57 PM PDT

Overture usurps Google at Freeserve U.K.

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Overture Services won the Web search business of U.K. Internet service provider Freeserve, supplanting Google in its flagship service and laying out new terrain for a fight.

A representative for Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture, a search company known for its commercial service, confirmed Tuesday that Freeserve U.K., the country's largest Net access provider, started using its search software this week. Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has powered Freeserve's search capabilities for approximately the last year.

Overture's win comes months after it entered the algorithmic search business, over which Google reigns. Overture's signature business is in selling and distributing advertising text links to the search results of major Web portals--including Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN--a lucrative industry in which Google has become a dominant rival in the last year.

To battle Google in its own backyard, Overture bought Web navigation technology from AltaVista and Fast Search & Transfer for about $210 million in cash and stock earlier this year. Now, by acquiring Freeserve as a customer for Web search, the company shows that it has the chops to compete in that business. The win also complements Overture's prior relationship with Freeserve. Freeserve, a unit of France-based Wanadoo, has been a customer of Overture's paid listings since 2000.

"One thing this demonstrates is the soundness of our acquisition strategy," said Al Duncan, an Overture spokesman.

Google declined to comment.

Duncan said Freeserve will use technology from Fast's AlltheWeb.com. He said the company is on track to unify the technology from AlltheWeb.com and AltaVista by the end of the year.

The story was first reported by U.K. publication PC Pro.

The deal follows Overture's recent announcement that it secured an extension with partner MSN to provide commercial search listings to many of its European properties, including Britain.

 

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