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CYBERCULTURE | HEARD ON THE BEAT

The Online Bloodhound

March 02, 1998|P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sharlene Jenkins knew her best friend from high school--someone she hadn't talked to in 20 years--was living somewhere in California. Jenkins, a 38-year-old housewife who recently moved to Anaheim, said she wanted to find her pal before their 20-year class reunion later this year.

"My husband is a computer programmer, so I thought I'd poke around on the Internet," Jenkins said.

After failing to turn up any leads, she stumbled across the AnyWho search engine (http://anywho.com), a powerful white pages directory being developed by AT&T.

The service grew out of an internal venture, said Jerry Vogel, technical manager of AT&T Labs' Internet directory group.

"We were using a search engine for our staff directory, which became very popular," Vogel said. "Someone suggested we scale up and see what we could do with public information. It was never meant to be a business, only a test of the technology and a public service."

The free online directory, which quietly launched in September, receives about 80,000 queries a day, officials said.

E-mail addresses, if available, appear with a person's name, address and phone number. Curious about who lives nearby? Click on the street address and up pops a list of neighbors.

After using the service, Jenkins said she quickly found her friend--who had settled in San *

P.J. Huffstutter covers high technology for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

Diego. "She didn't even know she was listed," Jenkins said.

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