While Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are busy building legions of data centers to capture the contents of the Web, a fledgling company has decided that it will squeeze the essential Internet onto a single laptop.
The company, Webaroo, planned to announce yesterday that Acer, the Taiwan-based leading maker of personal computers, will begin selling laptops furnished with 40 gigabytes of data, representing a snapshot of the Web.
While the full Internet is a million gigabytes or larger, Webaroo's founders contend that they have created a way to provide offline Web searchers with a useful subset of the Internet's vast storehouse of data and knowledge.
"People are addicted to search," said Brad Husick, Webaroo's president and one of its founders, and "there are lots of times when Internet access is inconvenient."
Underlying the Webaroo system is a software technology that is optimized for what the company refers to as "content density." This means that Webaroo has captured and compressed information that will give searchers a reasonable sample of the information that might otherwise yield thousands or millions of answers in a Google or Yahoo search.
The company, which has offices in Seattle and Santa Clara, California, as well as in New Delhi and Mumbai, India, says it scans the Internet and analyze Web pages in terms of quality, coverage and size.
The Webaroo designers note that most Web searchers never make it farther than the first page or two of results from a query.
"There is a lot of junk and a lot of redundancy on the Web," said Rakesh Mathur, the chief executive and a founder of Webaroo. Even so, the company said, its system would strive to deliver sites intact, including their ads, to avoid the frustration of dead ends.
In addition to offering subsets of relatively permanent Internet information, the system will update itself when the laptop is connected to the Internet, so that the user can use Webaroo to capture recent information from a Web site that changes frequently, like a news site, for later viewing offline.
The company said it was not concerned that Web sites might see the service as extracting their content without delivering measurable traffic. Web pages delivered to the database when a user updates it will register on a site's servers as viewed even if the pages are actually read offline later, if ever.
The service will also offer slices of Web information on special subjects, like news, sports or about such major cities as New York, London and Mumbai. Webaroo refers to these as Web packs and plans to offer them as free downloadable content.
Like many Internet startup companies, Webaroo hopes to sell advertising. The idea is that the company will make it possible for advertisers to reach customers on their laptops and eventually on other mobile devices when they are not connected to the Internet.
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