Yahoo! Adds Audio Search

For years now, Internet users willing to walk on the audio wild side have had access to millions of illicit music files via peer-to-peer file-trading services. But those who have tried to find locate of the commercial sources for online music files have found their choices limited.

Yahoo! intends to change that with its new Yahoo! Audio Search, announced last week. The company claims that the free search service, currently in beta testing but available for public use, provides access to over 50 million audio files from major music services and independent publishers.

Yahoo! says that the results of a search include content from the Web and Yahoo!'s Network properties such as Yahoo! Music, as well as from partnerships with mainstream and independent providers such as eMusic, GarageBand.com, Napster, and RealNetworks' Rhapsody. Conspicuously absent from the official list is online music's big dog on the block, iTunes. But a quick test of the service does indeed turn up references and links to iTunes files.

Probing for files from obscure artists such as, for example, Klaus Nomi, turns up several suspicious sources and files, with a warning at the top of each entry stating, "This download may be subject to copyright." And while most popular bands return several pages of results, a search on The Beatles returns only one short page with ten entries of fringe material, such as "Cry for a Shadow" or "When the Saints Go Marching In."

When searching, information about file size and audio quality is included with the results, as well as related information including music videos, album reviews, artist images, and artists' websites. Those who scorn compressed audio downloads may also find the service of use: It can be used to query Yahoo!'s shopping search engine, which compares CD prices and then provides information on online retailers.

According to Yankee Group analyst Su Li Walker, "By offering a single search path across multiple content sources, Yahoo! has made it easier for consumers to find podcasts, music, or other audio files in one place. By further enhancing the search experience with personalization tools, Yahoo! is delivering an innovative model for consumers to use the Web to find and listen to audio files of their choice."

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