Claria Has Search Plans

NEW YORK Claria plans to test a behavior-based search engine as part of an effort to revamp its business, according to the adware company.

Under its Vista Labs unit, Claria is testing a search engine that will use the Web habits of its pool of 40 million users to reorder search results. Category giants Yahoo and Google are both trying to make search results more personalized by tapping into prior search behavior. Claria asserts its platform will yield more relevant results by also taking into account Web site behavior.

Claria accomplishes this by examining user search behavior through its tracking software installed on about 50 million computers. Its technology ranks Web pages based on the behavior of its pool of users, including the results’ click-through rate, how many pages were viewed and the time spent on the site. An information button next to each Web search listing shows the information for each result, along with where the Web page ranks on Google, Yahoo and MSN.

“We’re not using anything from the search engines, except watching what consumers do when they search there,” said Scott Eagle, Claria’s chief marketing officer.

Microsoft recently decided against bidding a reported $500 million for Claria out of concern such a purchase would cause a public relations backlash, according to sources. Claria has been the subject of lawsuits and complaints users have unwittingly downloaded its tracking software with screensavers and file-sharing programs. Claria recently ended its deal with its top distribution partner, Sharman Networks’ Kazaa file-sharing service.

The search product, which Claria is only making available to a small group of test users, is the latest in the company’s series of product demonstrations to show the power of its tracking software beyond pop-up advertising. Claria also has demo products of how its technology can create personalized Web home pages.

Eagle said Claria would need wider distribution of its software, either through partnership or acquisition, in order to fully realize the power of its personalization platform. Its search product, for example, does not have deep information about many search terms, since it is based on behavioral information limited to Claria’s substantial but not enormous user base.

“This is a showcase of the technology to show the power of it,” Eagle said. “We’re keeping our options open with how to deploy it.”

In addition to its pop-up ad network, Claria is using its tracking technology to sell market research and an ad network, BehaviorLink, which is buying ad inventory to resell as targeted ad placements.