buys San Francisco service, the news and information service which last week staked its claim as Ireland's answer to Yahoo!, has bought, the leading San Francisco-based Irish online service. The deal is valued at £5 million with an investment of up to £5 million planned over the next 18 months. currently employs 40 people and plans to recruit an additional 60 employees over the next 12 months.

The new service, led by Ireland Online founders Colm Grealy and Barry Flanagan, has capital backing of £5 million and special agreements have been signed with domestic and international media partners for the provision of news content. However, last week's launch was hit by technical "teething" trouble.

Moving Money: A secure mobile transaction trial employing both smart card and WAP technology is taking place in Ennis. The trial is being conducted by Eircom, Eircell and the Bank of Ireland over a six-week period using Visa Cash, the electronic purse smart card currently on trial in the Information Town.

AOL Reclaims Europe: AOL is buying out German media giant Bertelsmann's 50 per cent stake in AOL Europe and AOL Australia in a stock deal worth between $6.5 billion and $8.25 billion. The acquisition had been expected after AOL acquired Bertelsmann rival Time Warner.

Virtually Ivy League: Software billionaire Michael Saylor has donated $100 million to set up an online university offering a free "Ivy League" education to all. "Done right, this will impact the lives of millions of people forever," Saylor told the Washington Post. "Done wrong, it's just noise in a can." So far, Saylor has no staff, specific curriculum or estimate of the ultimate cost of his project.

Crime Online: The US Justice Department has created a cybercrime web site,, that describes what computer crime is and how to report it. The site also has information on the department's latest thinking on privacy versus policing on the Internet and how the government searches and seizes computers.

Horror Slow: Stephen King's debut as an e-author turned into something of a horror story after his short story, Riding the Bullet, led to sites like and Barnes& being swamped by demand for it. "All the servers have reached 100 per cent capacity and gone over several times today," a spokeswoman for Scribner, the co-publisher with King's Philtrum Press, said.

GM Codes: A 17-year-old girl who embedded a computer message in the gene sequence of a strand of DNA has been named the best young scientist in the US. Viviana Risca won a $100,000 college scholarship in the Intel Science Talent Search competition. Risca said her project in steganography, a data encryption technology that allows a computer user to hide a file within another file, was a simple one.

Eircom's Euro Phone: Eircom is to invest £6m in 7,000 new "multi-payment" payphones. They are expected to be the first euro compatible device visible in Ireland.

Words Come Easier: The complete Oxford English Dictionary is now available online at Oxford University Press plans to charge individuals $550 for a yearly subscription and companies or institutions $795. The online dictionary will be updated quarterly with at least 1,000 new and revised entries.

In Brief... Irish company Allfinanz has signed a deal to license its bancassurance software to GE Financial Assurance in the US. . . Hibernia Mint has merged with Lee Brothers Jewellers for an undisclosed share transaction. . . Critical Path's Internet messaging and directory components will provide the basis for the Internet services offered by Eircell. . .