Travel search engines with unfamiliar names like Sidestep, Kayak, and Farechase may be mere blips on the Internet, but they are generating a lot of buzz.

The Holy Grail for any traveler is a website that can present the universe of flight, hotel, or rental car options in one place for easy comparison. No website has been able to do that yet, in part because some airlines and hotels are wary of ceding control to third parties, but the travel search engines are showing glimmers of promise.

''These guys have become a credible threat and competitor to Orbitz, Travelocity, and Expedia," said Al Lenza, vice president of distribution and e-Commerce at Northwest Airlines. ''It's good for the consumer, because the search engines highlight the fees the travel agencies charge."

Not everyone is convinced. Henry Harteveldt, vice president of travel research at Forrester Research, says travel search companies, sometimes called metasearch sites, are generating only about 1 percent of airline bookings. He said that's not enough to survive.

''Metasearch 1.0 is dead," he said. ''It's time for Metasearch 2.0 to emerge and service a slightly different purpose."

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