- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2000

Pickanything.com (www.pickanything. com) bills itself as a one-stop destination where Internet users can find information,consumer goods and Web sites.

The Columbia, Md., company recently went on line. It was started by two 1994 graduates of Centennial High School in Ellicott City, Adriane Faust and Amita Shukla.

"As we searched the Internet we looked for sites that performed well," said Ms. Faust, vice president of product development. "We then began to integrate all the pages together to create one place for people to find information on any subject."

The idea for the Web site started with Ms. Shukla late last summer as she kept encountering tools to help surfers find the information they needed, but not one that was perfect.

With Pickanything.com, users can go to the main Web site and jump to any of more than 20 product category micro-sites or go directly to a specific micro-site, for example Pickjewelry.com. Instead of conducting searches for all the information necessary to make a purchase, Pickanything.com has collected links to research, consumer reports, competitive pricing and features to present all the information needed to make an on-line or store purchase.

The service is initially opening with category topics that, according to company research, interests most Internet users such as toys, books and automobiles. Ms. Shukla said the auto industry provides an excellent example of the informed consumer who goes back to brick-and-mortar dealers for the purchase.

"We are providing the information on the vehicles and on the trade shows, nonprofit consumer organizations and third-party expert opinions," said Ms. Shukla, chief executive officer and founder. "A lot of portal sites provide access to retailers, but we also provide unbiased third-person consumer reports along with the ability to shop around and look at five different shops."

Visiting some of the different topic sites such as Pickjewelry.com, Pickdrugs.com or Picktoys.com, users will find eight basic sections of information retailers, discounts and coupons, information and resources, brands and manufacturers, experts and advice, publications, auctions and "Our Store."

Some categories offer additional sections on areas such as insurance and financial and auto services at Pickauto.com or organizations and general health links at Pickdrugs.com.

"Each of the individual sites has a parallel structure and design so that once a user becomes familiar with one site it becomes easy to navigate any site," Ms. Shukla said. "What we have created is not so much a portal as a one-stop destination for everything and anything you can imagine."

None of the content found on Pickanything.com or its sub-sites is original to the site. Instead Pickanything.com's handful of employees searches out other sites that provide a specific-level quality of content and service. Criteria for acceptance includes that the site is backed by a reputable company, appears to have market longevity and is technically sound.

"There are two steps in choosing the retailers we are listing," Ms. Shukla said. "They are chosen based on the quality of the site and product, and we have developed partnerships with some on-line retailers. Every time a purchase is made through Pickanything.com from that partnership retailer, we receive a slice of those revenues."

In response to Internet consumers, prepurchase demand for more information about products, the Pickanything.com sites provide "Experts and Advice" sections dedicated to reviews, comments and ratings for 21 areas from apparel and fashion to travel.

"We provide you links and access to other companies that provide the expertise so the information you obtain is out of our hand," Ms. Shukla said. "We are only providing the infrastructure that allows the user to access this information, but we do not control any of the content."

Future additions to the site will include more topic categories and community features, which should help keep surfers on the site longer and encourage repeat visits by users.

Have an interesting site? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Business Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or write (joseph@twtmail.com).

Site of the week: Pickanything.com

Site address: www.pickanything.com

Creator: In-house staff

Recommended user group: Surfers who use the Internet to research and compare goods and services before they buy.

What's to like? The sites are clean and without annoying graphics and lengthy downloads making it easy to navigate. The sites, which collate and group by topic information on a product or service, are appealing particularly for the user who does not have the research skills or patience to find the informational and on-line retailers they need.

I also like the infrastructure, designed so that each topic has its own Web site, or can be accessed via the main Pickanything.com site. This leads to an overall organized appearance and ease of use.

What's not to like? Pickanything. com does nothing more than provide easy access to a variety of Web sites that an experienced surfer would probably find on their own. Net-savvy shoppers are probably not going to be satisfied with just relying on what Pickanything.com's staff has presented.

I also question any site that presents advice, suggests retailers or offers to help me make a purchase decision that does not clearly state how and why such choices are made. Nothing exists on this site that makes me believe that the retailers presented by Pickanything.com have the lowest price or best value or that the experts they provide are the most knowledgeable.

Plenty of links to go around: Pickanything.com is a grouping of interconnected links, some interesting ones include:

On-line coupons can lead to big savings and Pickcoupons.com (www.pickcoupons.com) has collected links to find them by category, manufacturer or retailer for on-line or store purchases.

For persons shopping for a loan, the Internet can be a complicated place. Pickloans.com (www.pickloans.com) can get a loan shopper started down the right cyber-highway.

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