America Online Inc., seeking to boost traffic to its free Web site and generate more advertising dollars as its paid subscriber base declines, said Thursday it is enhancing its search functions.
Search queries will now generate a group of results called "snapshots" — editorial content and relevant information for a wide range of topics including local movie showtimes, sports statistics and current events. It will include options to find a flight or a restaurant.
AOL's searches can now group relevant results by topic.
The company is also introducing a tool to help users narrow their search queries. For instance, a user who types the word "eagles" can select from such options as "The Eagles" (the band), "The Philadelphia Eagles" (football team) or "eagles" (the bird).
AOL also said it has signed a licensing agreement with Copernic Technologies Inc. for a desktop search tool. Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. already have released similar software for cataloging and scanning hard drives for information.
With the expansion, AOL is trying to build on a longstanding partnership with Google, whose Internet-leading search engine distributes text-based ads to AOL's Web site. AOL will continue tapping Google's giant index to supplement search results.
AOL also unveiled a new way of selling ads. Working with a San Francisco startup, Ingenio Inc., AOL will charge for some ads based on how many telephone calls, not Web clicks, they generate for a business.