Broadens Buying Services

SAN FRANCISCO (04/11/2000) -, the "buyer's portal" offshoot of the Deja News Usenet discussion service, this week expanded its comprehensive Precision Buying Service to the realm of consumer electronics.

The Precision Buying Service, which is free and doesn't require membership or log-ins, was first introduced in March, covering computer products, books, music, and movies. With the addition of consumer electronics, the company claims to now cover over 2 million products.

The service aims to eliminate having to move from site to site for product information, pricing, reviews, and buying, according to a company representative. The service is designed to put it all together.'s consumer electronics section includes a cross-section of product areas, from camcorders, VCRs, and TVs, to car, home, and personal stereos, and more.

Checking Out Camcorders

Although I purchased an entry-level digital camcorder almost a year ago, I wanted to look at more capable models, so I went to the site to check them out. I clicked on the camcorder link from the service's main page, used the Product Wizard to narrow my search to MiniDV format, and the service came up with 14 choices.

Once you get your list of possibilities, you can view them by user-provided ratings, or compare their basic features side by side. The Precision Buying Service allows you to "drill down" to deeper levels of detail. I was able to find out pretty much everything I wanted to know about the Canon GL1, the model that I've had my eye on. And also provides links to the manufacturer Web sites, a nicety too often excluded from many e-commerce sites.

Get the Word on the (Net) Street

The most useful feature of is that it leverages the sizable resources of Usenet discussion groups. I could directly access discussion threads about the Canon GL1 from four Usenet groups and review the real-world experiences of users. I found that while the comments were overwhelmingly positive, professional users were annoyed at the camcorder's lack of a manual audio level control and a short battery life.

But the bottom line, of course, is the price. Although doesn't directly sell products, it does a price/availability page for the products you select. In the case of the Canon GL1, six online merchants were listed, with prices ranging from $2109.99 to $2399. (My local dealer had quoted $2499.) Links are provided to both the seller's general Web sites, and there is a "Buy It Now" button for the truly impatient.

For those more interested in browsing discussion groups than buying, offers searchable links to 53,000 Usenet and proprietary discussions. It claims to currently have 1.7 million users.

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