SAN FRANCISCO (Billboard) - First it was photos, then video, now music.

Yahoo is the first major portal to introduce a search engine dedicated to finding music and other audio files on the Internet. The Aug. 3 launch is the latest effort by Yahoo and other Internet search portals to organize the growing number of multimedia files on the Web.

One of the key features of the new search tool is its ability to scan the music libraries of almost all legitimate online services selling digital tracks. To do so, Yahoo struck individual deals with more than 15 music services -- including iTunes, MSN Music,
Napster, Rhapsody and Yahoo Music Unlimited -- to aggregate their catalogs into a searchable index. Independent publishers can submit content to the index through Yahoo's Media RSS.

Yahoo says its search results page will not give preferential treatment to any individual provider, including Yahoo Music Unlimited. Results are listed in alphabetical order by service provider.

"We always felt that being unbiased was part of the search mission," says Bradley Horowitz, director of technology development for Yahoo Search. He says the music search engine breaks down the walls between services and "lets you peer over to see what everybody has got."

To download any song, users must install the appropriate software for the given music service. But the search tool includes a feature that identifies the user's preferred music service and provides a one-click connection to that service in the search results.

Yahoo's search engine allows users to narrow results to podcasts or open the search to any file posted online, whether for download or streaming access -- including artist Web sites, audio blogs and fan sites.

"There's a lot of value for an iTunes customer to come in and use this product," Horowitz says. "We can do a lot of things that are very cool that iTunes can't."

The audio search engine is available in a public beta test version via