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Deal puts street talk on the Net

Where do you buy phat clothes? Who sells the best hip-hop? What up? What's the dealio?

It's Ask Jeeves' new Internet search service that will look for answers to questions posed in the popular language of the street.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Ask Jeeves Inc. announced a deal Monday to develop an "urban street language" data base for Urban Cool Networks Inc., a Web portal aimed at those in the hip, young, urban culture who may not be down with the Net just yet.

Adding street language to the Internet is one way of helping bridge the digital divide that is keeping some urban dwellers away from the Web, said Jake Miles, founder and CEO of Urban Cool in Dallas.

"There are millions of people at lower ends of the economic scale that aren't on the Internet," Miles said. "Getting them access, we believe, is just part of the solution. The other part is that the Internet is not relevant to them. The Internet does not speak their language."

Urban Cool, which links to about 6,000 urban business and consumer sites, has struck a deal to have Ask Jeeves create a specialized version of natural language search technology to include common street idioms not found in Webster's dictionary.

"If someone uses the old term "homey,' it will be able to recognize that as well," Miles said.

Urban Cool, at www.urbancool.com, also plans to install a network of high-speed Internet kiosks in 25 urban markets and has announced plans for an initial public offering.

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