Merrill Lynch & Co., looking to personalize its Web sites, has licensed StoryServer software from Vignette Corp.

Personalization software can help make up for the loss of "human intuition" on the Web, said Paul Hagen, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. Banking companies that are using Vignette's StoryServer software include First Union Corp., Bank One Corp., PNC Bank Corp., and Citigroup Inc.

Merrill's private client retail arm, which has 700 branch offices and four million customers, began a search for Web personalization software two years ago when it launched its on-line news magazine, said Frank Zammataro, first vice president and senior director of e-alliances and e-investments at Merrill. The magazine will be the first of the Merrill sites to be outfitted with Vignette's software.

The company says it liked Vignette of Austin, Tex., because its products are based on extensible mark-up language, or XML, which Mr. Zammataro called the fastest available Internet protocol.

Merrill will use StoryServer to make its Web site more topic-specific. For example, someone interested in retirement planning would be sent news, statistics, and other information on that subject as well as information about Merrill products and services in the category. The customer could also choose to receive alerts on given topics.

StoryServer streamlines the personalization process by "getting the workflow in place" and "tagging data" to be used more intelligently, Mr. Zammataro said.

Merrill will also use Vignette's SyndicationServer software to make its Web sites more uniform. Merrill supports www.ml.com, www.mlol.ml.com, www.askmerrill.com, intranet sites, the soon-to-be launched Merrill Direct discount brokerage site, and a number of international sites.

Vignette, a four-year-old company, has more than 190 customers and reported $14.9 million of second-quarter revenues.

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