MSN to drop contract with LookSmart

Microsoft Corp.’s MSN division will drop its contract with Internet search firm LookSmart Ltd. in January, marking a new stage in the software giant’s long-term plan to develop its own search tools.

The news sent LookSmart shares plunging nearly 60 percent.

San Francisco-based LookSmart, which receives nearly 70 percent of its quarterly revenue from MSN, will be forced to cut costs, chief executive Jason Kellerman said. He declined to offer any financial specifics, saying the company was still grappling with the news.

“We’re going to need to make some changes around here,” Kellerman told analysts and reporters on a conference call.

Shares of LookSmart plummeted $1.74, or 58 percent, in extended trading Monday on the Nasdaq Stock Market, after closing the regular session at $3.02. Microsoft shares rose 11 cents to close at $29.19 on the Nasdaq.

LookSmart has worked with MSN since 1998.

MSN will almost immediately quit using LookSmart’s technology on its United Kingdom sites, said MSN lead product manager Lisa Gurry, and will remove it from its U.S. sites on Jan. 15.

Microsoft is hoping to tap into the increasingly lucrative business of Internet searching, which is worth billions of dollars each year as companies pay for prominent placements in search results.

Companies including Google, Yahoo, and MSN offer search tools for computer users looking for news, information, shopping sites or other Web sites. Users enter keywords and the search engines return listings of relevant Web links, based on algorithms and other formulas.

But the results also include a section of links to advertisers who pay for inclusion based on the keywords. For example, a user who types in “Hawaii vacation” may see links to travel agencies or Hawaii hotels.

Those paid results amount to billions of dollars a year for search sites, and have become increasingly important in MSN’s bid to post a profit, analysts said.

Gurry said Microsoft decided to drop LookSmart after conducting tests in its U.K. sites. She said MSN believes it can provide better search results to consumers by relying more on technology from Microsoft or another search firm partner, Overture. Gurry added that the company has no plans to terminate its contracts with Overture or another search firm, Inktomi.

However, that could change, said Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester Research, considering that Microsoft competitor Yahoo now owns Overture and Inktomi.

Although search companies have been on notice ever since Microsoft said earlier this year it was working on its own search-engine technology, “the timing of (this) was a lot sooner than they expected,” Li said.

Source: Associate Press

Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Web

Privacy-focused DuckDuckGo added to Chrome as a default search option

DuckDuckGo is now listed as a default search option on Google’s popular Chrome browser. The privacy-focused search engine was added this week as part of the browser's latest update.
Health & Fitness

AncestryDNA price drop makes it more affordable to discover your family origins

In step with St. Patrick's Day's emphasis on roots, AncestryDNA cut its price for a DNA-based ancestry search by $40. Send in a saliva sample to receive an estimated ethnicity breakdown, locations of origin, and possible living relatives.
Mobile

Google’s Gboard is about to get a lot better at speech recognition

Google's Gboard is packed with features, including great ways to search for GIFs and images, and ways to make typing easier. Now, it's about to get even better due to Google bringing its speech-recognition algorithms into the phone.
Deals

Want a pearly white smile? Grab this celebrity-obsessed teeth-whitening system

Getting your teeth whitened by your dentist is costly and over-the-counter teeth whitening products are not always effective. If you've been searching for a teeth whitening product that works. Snow is a wireless teeth whitening system that…
Computing

Teens using Google Docs as the modern version of passing notes in class

Google Docs is reportedly being used by teens as a secret communications app. Instead of passing notes, students are now using the software's live chat function or comment boxes to talk with their friends while in the middle of classes.
Computing

HP’s Omen Mindframe headset keeps your ears chill, but might leave you lukewarm

The Omen Mindframe headset uses HP's FrostCap technology to keep ears cool during long gaming sections. While it delivers on keeping ears cool, it forgets some of the essentials of a quality gaming headset.
Computing

Windows updates shouldn't cause problems, but if they do, here's how to fix them

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Computing

Here’s how you can watch today’s Nvidia GTC 2019 keynote live

Nvidia's rumored 7nm Ampere graphics could debut soon. The company will be kicking off its GPU Technology conference at 2 p.m. PT today, Monday, March 18, and you can watch the opening keynote here.
Computing

After fourth attack, hacker puts personal records of 26M people up for sale

A serial hacker going by the name of Gnosticplayers is selling the personal data of 26 million people who have been using the services of six different companies from across the world.
Computing

There’s more space on MySpace after ‘accidental’ wipe of 50 million songs

MySpace is no longer a safe refuge for music and media produced in the 2000s. It said that almost any artistic content uploaded to the site between 2003 and 2015 may have been lost as part of a server migration last year.
Computing

HP’s spring sale cuts prices on the 15-inch Spectre x360 by $270

Looking for a new laptop to start off the spring season? HP has you covered and is currently running a sale that is cutting $270 off the price of the 15-inch touchscreen variant of its Spectre X360 Windows 10 convertible laptop. 
Computing

Intel and Facebook team up to give Cooper Lake an artificial intelligence boost

Intel's upcoming Cooper Lake microarchitecture will be getting a boost when it comes to artificial intelligence processes, thanks to a partnership with Facebook. The results are CPUs that are able to work faster.
Computing

Dodge the cryptojackers with the best torrent clients available today

Looking for the best torrent clients to help you share all of that wonderful legal content you own? Here's a list of our favorite torrent clients, all packed with great features while dodging malware and adverts.