OK, follow the bouncing ball here. Excite@Home sells the Excite.com site to InfoSpace last month. InfoSpace owns the meta search service Dogpile and suggests that Dogpile results will power Excite, in the future.
Dogpile is especially notable for carrying paid listing from Overture, FindWhat, LookSmart and Sprinks prominently on the first page of results. That meant for all practical purposes, Excite was to become a paid placement service, but with no particular paid placement provider having the edge.
Last week, things changed. Overture and InfoSpace signed a new agreement, and now you'll find that it is Overture results dominating the Excite search results. Indeed, for the queries I ran, the first 15 results of 20 total results were paid listings from Overture. The last five results were unpaid listings provided by Inktomi. The same thing is happening at WebCrawler, the other search engine that Excite@Home owned and sold to InfoSpace.
A letter from Overture to its advertisers sent last week suggested that its top 15 listings would only be used on Excite for "selected" terms. It implied that more often, it would only be the top five listings from Overture that would be carried. That's convenient, because Overture always tries to encourage its advertisers to seek the very top positions, in order to increase bid amounts. However, from my testing, the reality seems to be that it's always 15 paid listings that are carried.
Overall, the change is bad news for FindWhat. Excite was the key distribution partner it had among the major search engines, and Overture has essentially usurped it there. FindWhat's most recentl press release spins the change as not dramatic, saying that Excite produced less than 10 percent of its revenue in the current quarter.
LookSmart also appears to be another loser, in that Excite and WebCrawler are now featuring directory listings that are based on the Open Directory. LookSmart was previously Excite's directory partner. InfoSpace is also monetizing the Open Directory by carrying paid listings from Overture at the top of its listings.
While the deal is a boon for Overture, I expect this will be short lived. There's no compelling reason to go to Excite any longer. It no longer provides its own independent crawl of the web, and the paid listings are so dominate that users would be better urged to select a search engine with more balance. I'd expect Excite's traffic to begin a decline mirroring that of NBCi, which moved to a scaled-back portal and paid listings earlier this year
Ironically, a message to visitors reaching the Excite web site discusses how the new management seeks to "restore Excite to its former glory." Dumping a load of paid listings on searchers coming to the site -- without any disclaimers -- is hardly a step in the right direction.
Excite: Welcome To A New Beginning
Get the pitch about how great the "new" Excite is.
Web portal Excite UK will shut down this week
Reuters, Dec. 17, 2001
Excite UK is to close.
FindWhat.com Raises Fourth Quarter Estimates
FindWhat.com Press Release, Dec. 3, 2001
FindWhat says it is not worried about the changes at Excite, though this release was before the more extensive Overture-InfoSpace deal was announced. The company also raised its revenue projections.
Overture Adds Excite.com
InternetNews.com, Dec. 10, 2001
Business news on the InfoSpace-Overture deal.
Overture Now on Excite!!
SearchEngineForums.com, Dec. 10, 2001
Reaction from visitors at SearchEngineForums.com about the change and a copy of the Overture letter sent to advertisers.
Farewell Excite DB!
Webmaster World, Dec. 16, 2001
Reaction to the change from visitors to the Webmaster World site.
InfoSpace Approved To Buy Excite
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 3, 2001
More background on the Excite acquisition by InfoSpace.