When online insurance marketplaces first appeared on the Internet horizon more than five years ago, they filled an important gap in carriers' online business strategies. At that time, most insurers had Web sites that industry experts mockingly referred to as "brochureware" to describe their informational, non-transactional qualities.Insurance marketplaces attracted the attention of consumers who were surfing the Web to comparison shop for auto, home and even life insurance. Typically frequented by young, Internet-savvy Generation Xers and baby boomers, these online insurance marketplaces provided participating carriers and independent agents with hundreds of leads from consumers who were patient enough to wade through screen after screen of questions before they received their prize: multiple quotes from brand-name insurers.

Although direct writers and independent agents still purchase leads from these so-called aggregators, most of today's online insurance marketplaces, including Insure.com, Insurance.com, Answer Financial and InsLogic, are licensed online agencies that enable consumers to get multiple quotes and purchase insurance either online or by contacting a licensed agent through a marketplace's call center.

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