SAN FRANCISCO, April 1 (Reuters) - ZoomInfo, which offers Web search for finding people, on Sunday said it is expanding to offer free or low-cost services across companies, mounting a challenge to established business information services.
Zoom Information Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts, said it will offer free access to in-depth information on millions of U.S. companies, tens of millions of people and job listings.
The company's system, which crawls the open Web to locate details of individual people and then constructs profiles using artificial intelligence techniques, gives job recruiters and other business users an alternative to proprietary databases.
It draws 4.5 million monthly users, according to audience measurement firm comScore and its site counts 35.2 million profiles it has automatically assembled on individuals in business. The new search feature lists 3.5 million firms. By contrast, Hoover's Inc. HOOV.O, which uses editors to compile dossiers on companies, details only around 100,000.
To date, ZoomInfo has derived most of its revenues from fee-based and subscription services. Of the $12 million in revenue it generated last year, the bulk came from recruiters.
The company, which was founded in 2000, has so far made most of its money from paid services it provides to 1,600 corporate clients, including Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., PepsiCo and a fifth of the Fortune 500.
With the introduction of its Web-based company search service, ZoomInfo said it is shifting its financial model to become a business-focused version of sites like Google that make money by providing relevant ads alongside search results.
ZoomInfo's automated search system is designed to avoid personal Web sites and social networking profiles in order to reduce potential privacy threats to individuals, executives of the company said.
Instead, it focuses on business-oriented information sites.
ZoomInfo is able to generate detailed company descriptions, revenues, key employees, merger links, product categories, industry competitors and current job openings. It does this using semantic Web search techniques that allow a user to search not just by keywords, as Google does, but by concepts.
As an example, a user might search for companies with sales under $50 million in Chicago or St. Louis in a hard to define product category. Use of these in-depth features cost $99 a month. One can import individual existing listings into one's address book for an additional 50 cents per user.
The new services allow Web users who sign up at www.zoominfo.com the ability to save and forward searches for information on companies, along with links to job search listings through a partnership with Indeed.com.
To date, ZoomInfo has focused on crawling North American Web sites. With the new service, the company is will expand its search system to the English-speaking world.