By BOB TEDESCHI
NEWS enthusiasts, rejoice. A Web site is being introduced today that
will not only let you find articles on the topic of your choice from
hundreds of newspapers and magazines, it will also alert you to all
the other news accounts floating around cyberspace that have any
connection whatsoever to anything you read.
The site, Inform.com, developed by Inform Technologies, a New York
start-up, will perform information-delivery feats that its founders
claim no other Web site can match. The question is whether the average
reader will want to follow the spectacle.
At first glance, Inform.com resembles so-called news-reader services
like Yahoo News and Google News, which can be customized to hunt down
stories related to, say, technology or entertainment.
But Inform goes further, scanning every news article from hundreds of
well-known publications (and some blogs), then creating an index of
important elements in the article. So as a user reads a
WashingtonPost.com article about Sandra Day O'Connor, for example,
Inform offers a short list of related stories about the justice and
other people, places, organizations, topics, industries and products
mentioned in the text.
The article appears as it would on the newspaper's site -- with The
Post's advertisements -- while the Inform links appear in a border.
If readers choose not to dig into Supreme Court-related issues, they
can search another topic, browse a directory of hundreds of news
categories or read articles on a list of "hot" people and
organizations, ranked according to how many times they are mentioned
in Inform's article database.
If that sounds like a trick the search engines could just as easily
pull off, it's not that simple. While Google News, for instance, will
retrieve articles about I.B.M., it will miss other items referring to
the company as IBM, or International Business Machines. Inform's
system has been programmed to look for those variations even as it
searches for the specified term.
When users register with the site, Inform will also watch what they
read and make suggestions on their home pages based on past sessions.
For all its user-friendly ambitions, however, some specialists wonder
whether Inform.com will have broad appeal.