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Excite@Home Goes Bankrupt; AltaVista Cuts Staff

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Two of the web's oldest search engines had more bad financial news, with Excite@Home filing for bankruptcy last Friday and AltaVista also announcing a new round of layoffs last month.

Excite@Home operates the Excite.com portal, which uses its own in-house search technology to create listings. Launched in late 1995, Excite is currently the longest-running crawler-based search engine.

The company is looking to sell the Excite portal to a buyer, but prospects of both that happening and the portal surviving in any current form are unlikely. Both Go.com and NBCi sought to offload their portals earlier this year, without success. Neither did anyone step forward to take over the in-house search technology both players had developed.

Today, from a search perspective, both sites now simply serve up paid listings -- Go uses GoTo, while NBCi uses paid listings-heavy Dogpile.

Paid listings also seems the likely future for Excite. The company currently has a paid listings partnership with FindWhat. That makes it reasonable to expect Excite to begin using FindWhat's paid listings in the near term, if it decides to shutter its in-house search operations.

Such a move would be a short term gain for FindWhat. It would immediately have access to even more of Excite's traffic, but that traffic is likely to drop, as the portal's development is abandoned.

I didn't get a comment back from Excite@Home in time for this article on any plans, but I'll keep you updated, as I hear more.

Over at AltaVista, the company cut 30 percent of its staff and named a new chief executive officer, James Barnett, formerly of president of MyFamily.com. Most of the cuts apparently came from the shopping search side of the company. After Excite, AltaVista is the web's second-longest running major crawler. It launched in December 1995.

Excite
http://www.excite.com

AltaVista
http://www.altavista.com

Excite@Home files for bankruptcy
News.com, Oct. 1, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1004-200-7339605.html

More details about the filing. The broadband side of things has been sold to AT&T, which has no interest in the portal side.

Excite@Home Pulls The Plug
SiliconValley.internet.com, Sept. 29, 2001
http://siliconvalley.internet.com/news/article/0,2198,3531_894301,00.html

A closer look at the broadband deal.

Excite May Be Out; FAST Has Further Layoffs
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 4, 2001
http://www.searchenginewatch.com/sereport/01/09-excite.html

Short, past article from me on problems at Excite, plus a recap of how other, older major search engines have fallen.

AltaVista names new CEO, cuts staff
News.com, Sept. 17, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-7209141.html

So, AltaVista's rankings have dropped because it "recently" cut its affiliate program, as the new CEO suggests in this article. Wrong excuse. The Yahoo deal did apparently end last month, but that wouldn't have impacted the July ratings mentioned in this article. A more wide ranging affiliate was discontinued back in February,. It paid a few cents per search, for people who sent AltaVista traffic. Of course, Google ended its similar program at the same time. Google's traffic has grown, not plunged, since then. So, why has AltaVista seen such a drop?

In addition, AltaVista's traffic has been dropping since June 2000, when it had almost a 20 percent share of the web audience, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. In contrast, Google had a 5 percent audience share. In July 2001, the situation was almost swapped. Google enjoyed a 16 percent audience share, while AltaVista struggled with a 7.6 percent share.

Don't blame the affiliates. The likely answer here is that there's a sizable "pure" search audience on the web that will give its dedication to one major search engine. AltaVista had 'em and lost 'em to Google.

Jupiter Media Metrix Ratings
http://searchenginewatch.com/reports/mediametrix.html

See how AltaVista and Google ratings compare against each other for the past several months, via this page. Later in October, I'll also be updating it with June, July and August 2001 information. Search Engine Watch members can also use the Past Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings link at the bottom of the page, to go back even further.

Ad Market Woes Push About.com into E-commerce Waters
AtNewYork, Sept. 26, 2001
http://www.atnewyork.com/news/article/0,1471,8471_892401,00.html

Facing its own financial woes, About.com closes about half its 750 web sites.

Terra Lycos reiterates lowered outlook
Reuters, Sept. 26, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-7308369.html

Don't expect a profit from Terra Lycos for at least a year, due to the downturn in advertising.


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