AOL Buys Video Search Firm

Seeking to buy its way to a stronger position in the emerging video search and download marketplace, America Online said it would acquire video search firm Truveo, Inc.

Terms of the deal — AOL’s fifth acquisition in a year — were not disclosed. Truveo, which is privately held, was founded in January of 2004 and launched its video search technology in September of 2005.

Truveo uses Web crawling technology called “Visual Crawling” to constantly update a massive index of high-quality, current video available online. AOL said the tools let users find video that would otherwise be hidden on dynamic Web pages and sometimes cannot be found using other video search tools, which rely heavily on meta tags, closed captioning and other cues to identify specific clips.

Because it constantly updates, the index includes late-breaking video clips about sports and new events, AOL noted.

Truveo will be integrated with AOL’s own video search technology, which was built on the foundation of an earlier acquisition — the November, 2003 buy of Singingfish, which specialized in video and music search even though at the time far fewer high-resolution video clips could be found on the Web.

Analysts say the latest move underscores AOL’s belief that video will be a key component of tomorrow’s Internet experience and that it is uniquely positioned — because of the deep well of video content owned by Time Warner — to capitalize on that trend.

‘Hidden Gem’

“Consumers across the Web have eagerly anticipated a video search engine that offers relevant, up-to-the-minute, premium video results,” said Jonathan F. Miller, the chairman and CEO of AOL. “Truveo is a hidden gem in the video marketplace.”

The buy, Miller added, “takes AOL even farther down the path of being the premier destination on the Internet for video and search.”

Though many of its acquisitions have been of small, privately held technology firms, AOL has been on something of a buying spree that analysts say could lead to it becoming an increasing threat to other Web players over time.

Within the past year, AOL announced it would buy Music Now, Weblogs, Xdrive and Wildseed. Many of the purchases came as AOL parent Time Warner was said to be shopping around for a partner or buyer for its Internet arm. That search ended with Google investing US$1 billion for a 5 percent stake in AOL and agreeing to a long-term search and advertising contract.

AOL has been at the forefront of the Web video movement as well. Its broadcast of the “Live 8” concert last summer broke records for online viewings and was widely hailed by critics. And the portal has already begun to trot out some of the content hidden in the Time Warner archives, launching the In2TV site with free re-runs of classic Warner Bros. sitcoms and dramas.

Big Year, Big Momentum

Search Engine Watch editor Gary Price said the move will help AOL “develop into a major player in the video and multimedia search scene.”

“2005 was a big year for AOL Video Search,” Price added. Capping things was the Google deal, which includes future collaboration between the two on video search, including highlighting AOL video within Google’s own self-built video search tools.

Meanwhile, Yahoo made a multi-media search-related acquisition of its own on Tuesday, buying Webjay, a community-style site that lets people build and share song play lists of music and video available on the Web.

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