Thu, May 25, 2000 - Page 18 News List

Lycos unveils Web portal

COMPETITION Despite its late entry into Taiwan's saturated Internet portal market, the US company plans to compete with established players such as Kimo and Yam

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Popular US search engine Lycos opened for business in Taiwan yesterday, with a portal site aimed at toppling local companies from the market's top spots.

Eric Gerritsen, the company's vice president for international business development, said that although Taiwanese Web portals are very impressive, Lycos plans to compete anyway.

The company has built three "Greater China" portal sites (中華區網站) with Chinese and English language content that offer the Lycos search engine, a personal Web site builder and free e-mail.

But according Michael Chang (張志弘), general manager at Web advertising company 24/7 Asia (貳肆柒互動傳媒), most established portals already offer these same services.

Chang said the most important consideration for a new portal was establishing brand recognition, not free e-mail.

"Taiwan is a tough market because of the competition," he said. "Kimo.com (奇摩站) and Yam.com (番薯藤) are established, well-known names. They're going to be tough to compete with."

Another advantage Taiwanese sites have is what Web analysts call "first mover advantage."

Because companies such as Kimo and Yam launched Chinese language search engines in Taiwan years ago, both companies enjoy the advantage of better connections and user loyalty.

In recent Web portal rankings, AC Nielsen-Taiwan listed Kimo.com first and Yam.com second, with local providers or "Greater China" sites making up most of the remaining top 10.

The only Western brand to place among the top 10 was Yahoo. Yahoo-Taiwan took third place in the Nielsen ratings and the American version of Yahoo placed sixth.

But Yahoo's success may offer Lycos a glimmer of hope. Yahoo-Taiwan entered the local market only a year ago but has managed to gain popularity.

According Ru Chang (張如), Yahoo-Taiwan's public relations manager, the climb has not been an easy one. She said competition in Taiwan between portal sites is fierce and noted that it took awhile before Yahoo-Taiwan moved upward in the rankings.

"[In the beginning] the logic of our search engine was different than the local model," she said. "We designed from Western logic and had to adapt to the local model [of search criteria]."

But Gerritsen was undaunted by the prospect of competition in Taiwan.

"We have the ability to build strong local sites, so we're just rolling ahead," he said.

Gerritsen believes state-of-the-art equipment for use with WAP phones and broadband Internet users will keep Lycos ahead of the game in Taiwan.

Gerritsen said Lycos' expansion model has been to merge with strong local players and have them retain their own name brand.

He said the company would take equity stakes in some Taiwanese Web sites later this year, "in areas where people have created content and an audience."

The company is already seeking a mobile phone service provider to partner with on WAP services and has struck a number of deals with dotcom content providers to boost the Lycos-Taiwan portal.

A few of these agreements include the Central News Agency and ETV for news content and Polaris Securities for stock information.

While he refused to comment on the likelihood of mergers with local portals this year, Gerritsen did say, "To have a [number] one or two market position in a market of six million is a very attractive thing."

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