Hoping to attract broadband customers to its service, AOL today began offering a new audio and video search feature that promises to simplify searches for multimedia content across the web as well as through AOL's exclusive media content.

The company, a subsidiary of Time Warner, has also acquired Singingfish, which provides the technology for the multimedia searches. Representatives of AOL and Singingfish could not immediately be reached for comment.

Singingfish's search engine technology is already included in media players by companies such as Microsoft and RealNetworks. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing programs like Kazaa and Morpheus also allow audio and video searches, though the services are often accused of violating copyrights. Singingfish claims it only searches for content that is authorised for use.

Along with the audio and video search, AOL is also offering a preview version of a neighbourhood search technology called "In Your Area," which includes local yellow-page listings and movie showing times. The company did not say when the full version of the search tool would be made available, or detail the limitations of the preview version.

New navigation tabs for audio and video searches as well as the In Your Area searches have been included on the integrated AOL Search service.

AOL has been aggressive in its efforts to compete in the growing online search market. Last month, the company added new query options and navigation tools to its service and expanded its agreement with search engine Google to include access to Google's index and sponsored links.