THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE
Oct. 17, 1997 - Number 15
About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to those people who have subscribed to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Please cut and paste, should this occur.
Subscriber-Only Area Changes
My wife is now helping me with maintaining the site. In particular, she is now dealing with all subscriber-related questions. Sometimes people forget their password or need other help. In these cases, you should message her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She'll help you quickly with any problems.
In the Projects In Progress section, you will now find a page about Search Engine Profits, with some comparison charts. There is also a What is Spamming? page, which covers some of the aggressive things people do improve their listings. This is meant to be a guide as to what to avoid doing, since there is so much confusion now about what is and isn't considered to be acceptable.
New results from Media Metrix and RelevantKnowledge have been posted. You'll find links from the What's New page:
Search Engine News
Relax, Excite Does Index Tables
Excite customer support recently began reporting that it did not index text contained in tables. That caused me to get a number of messages from concerned webmasters. Be concerned no longer -- the messages were mistaken. Excite will index text contained in tables.
However, Excite did clarify that it will not crawl frame links. I was told previously by Excite that they were frames-capable, and I actually found that the crawler seemed to get pages that had no overt links to them. But Excite says that its spider can't follow frames links.
So, as with most of the other major search engines, you should ensure that you create an alternative way for spiders to find your inside pages. The Search Engines and Frames page within Search Engine Watch covers this topic in depth.
I also reaffirmed that Excite does not index comment text. Many people are under the impression that they can use text within comment tags as a method of "priming" Excite to control the description it returns. This is not the case. Comment text is ignored, as is ALT text.
Search Engines And Frames
AltaVista Expands To Largest Index
AltaVista has increased its index to 100 web pages, making it twice as large as its nearest competitors, Excite and HotBot. A release is up on the site, which you can find from the Search Engine News page. More details on this will come in the next newsletter.
Perhaps related to this, pages submitted via the Add URL service are not appearing in the main site within a day or two, which is the usual case. They are appearing in the mirror sites, however. I'm checking on why this is occurring, but I suspect it is temporary and related to the larger index.
Increasing the index size means that it can take longer to search through all the web pages for a match. This may not be a problem for the mirror sites, since they receive far less traffic than the main site. But the main site may still be dealing with the best way to optimize searching through the larger catalog. Until this is resolved, it may stick with an older index while the mirror sites get updated ones.
Again, this is an educated guess, and I'll bring more details as I know them.
Another thing people sometimes notice is that the number of pages can vary when they perform a "site:" or "url:" search to locate the number of pages from a web site listed in AltaVista. The reason for this is because these types of searches are very processor intensive.
When AltaVista is busy, it may not perform an entire search. It allocates a certain amount of time, then reports what it has found. If you click through a few pages of results, it may continue the search from where it left off, and thus more pages may appear.
To get the best results, do these type of searches during periods of low activity, which is usually late at night in the United States.
Search Engine News
HotBot Instant Add URL Sluggish
HotBot's instant Add URL service is supposed to add pages submitted to the index within 48 hours. This has not been the case for at least the past week. HotBot had similar difficulties last month, so keep watching your pages and try again at a later date, to see if the problem gets resolved.
Details Emerge On Microsoft Search Engine
MSNBC is reporting that Microsoft plans to license technology from Inktomi, which powers HotBot and other search engines, to help it create its own search engine. In addition, this new search engine is planned to be at the center of a revamped MSN.
If so, Microsoft would be trying to emulate the success of Yahoo and Excite, which attract huge numbers of people who are looking for things on the web.
Ironically, Excite, Yahoo more recently, Lycos, have been expanding their options beyond search services in order to become destinations of their own, rather than gateways to other sites. In particular, Excite describes its move as transforming the search service into an online service, such as MSN.
Microsoft Network muscles into search engine business
MSNBC, Oct. 19, 1997
Microsoft: Yukon ho?
News.com, Oct. 7, 1997
Welcome To SearchEngineLand
Excite stopped calling itself a search engine earlier this year. Instead, it has billed itself as an online service, similar to AOL. To back its claims, it quickly began adding non-search services, such as chat and free email. These were integrated into its directory listings, which themselves were organized into channels.
The goal was to create interesting places for people to hang out. Search engines are like the airports or train stations of the web. People go through them, but they don't stay for long.
Instead, Excite is trying to turn itself into a destination, rather than a transit point. In a way, it wants to be an online theme park. People can come to ShoppingLand, or EntertainmentLand, where they can talk to others online, participate in discussions or read news stories. Excite wants people to stay awhile, which gives them the ability to dish up more ads.
If Excite has become ExciteLand, then YahooLand and LycosLand aren't far behind. Both Yahoo and Lycos made moves in October putting them firmly on course toward the online service model that Excite has been pioneering.
Yahoo is no stranger to extra services. It has offered chat since January of this year, four months before Excite. Now it has added free email to its offerings. Discussion boards continue to be beta tested.
Lycos had more catching up to do. It did so in one swoop, adding chat, discussion areas and free email on the same day.
But just adding services is not enough to transform a search service into an online service. To attract and keep visitors, the extra services and other content need to be properly integrated to make a destination worth visiting.
Here is where Excite really shines. Its channels, introduced in April, pull all of its topically-related options into central locations.
For example, a visit to the Entertainment channel offers news headlines, a summary of live chat and bulletin board topics, a local television schedule, movie listings and video releases, all on the same page. Far from being confusing, everything is organized in an easy-to-read fashion.
Web reviews are included, and way down at the bottom is a search box. Its position emphasizes that your visit is not about searching, then leaving Excite. Instead, you're intended to stay and participate.
In contrast, Yahoo's services live in their own worlds. They are easy to miss, tucked in a small font size under the search box. Nor are they integrated into the site.
For example, clicking on Entertainment brings up a standard Yahoo listing page. If you want to view headlines, you have to click to a new page. Chat discussions are not mentioned.
Lycos occupies a middle ground. It has organized its Top 5 reviews, headlines and other material into WebGuides. Now it has added links to its chat areas.
It will be interesting to watch Yahoo and Lycos, as they move further along the path toward becoming destinations. It will also be interest to see whether it is what people are looking for.
Search engines battle over features
News.com, Oct. 8, 1997
A rundown on the latest deals to offer email, online retailing alliances and other deals search engines have made.
Lycos, Yahoo add free email in battle for users' loyalty
Ad Age, Oct. 1997
Summary of new additions to Yahoo and Lycos, as they follow Excite's move into adding features to better become destinations, rather than transit points on the web.
Yahoo Gets E-Mail, Four11
Yahoo is now offering free email to its visitors.
Yahoo Mail is a free, web-based mail service. It is essentially a Yahoo-edition of the popular RocketMail service. Mail addresses are of the form "email@example.com."
Rocketmail was created by Four11, which also provides online white pages. In a related announcement, Yahoo said that it plans to acquire the company. Yahoo and Four11 have been long-time partners.
Under the agreement, Yahoo will issue 1,654,099 shares of common stock for all outstanding Four11 interests. It also expects to book a $4 million charge in its fourth quarter. This is Yahoo's first acquisition.
Yahoo buys Four11 for free email
News.com, Oct. 8, 1997
Yahoo Buys Four11, Secures Compaq, Gateway Deals
Wired, Oct. 8, 1997
Yahoo Buys Directory in $93M Stock Swap
WebWeek, Oct. 13, 1997
Lycos Adds Extra Services
Lycos had added free email and other services to its site, putting it firmly in the same direction of Excite and Yahoo into becoming an online destination.
E-mail services are web based and offered in conjunction with iName. Users can have a standard address, of the form "firstname.lastname@example.org." They can also pay $15 per year to have a specialty domain, such as email@example.com.
Chat and bulletin board services have been introduced, and there is a new personal guide page. It can be customized to reflect personal preferences about news, weather, stocks and web reviews.
Lycos Chat and BBS
Lycos Personal Guide
GTE Files Federal Suit Over Yahoo-Related Listing
GTE has filed a US lawsuit claiming the US regional phone companies, along with Netscape and Yahoo, have conspired to monopolize the Internet yellow pages market and prevent companies with competing products from reaching Internet consumers. The suit was filed Oct. 7, with the US District Court in Washington D.C.
Perhaps GTE will be able to prove the regional phone companies, or Baby Bells, colluded on this particular project in violation of anti-trust laws. But it will have a tough time showing that the change within the Netscape Guide has limited competition as much as it claims.
The guide, produced by Yahoo for Netscape, has a Yellow Pages section. In this section, there is a map of the United States. Regions are highlighted by color and linked to the online yellow pages offerings from each regions local phone company, or Baby Bell.
GTE claims that the Baby Bells banded together in the Netscape Guide to produce a "national" yellow pages service, rather than compete against each other, as they had been doing.
"The [Baby Bells” couldn't beat us on a level playing field, so they pulled back their own national products, carved up the country into exclusive territories, forced competitors off key locations on the Internet and intend to divide the winnings among themselves," said GTE, in a press release.
Whether a court would agree remains to be seen. The map itself is clearly linked to individual products. It does not present the offerings combined as a single Yellow Pages guide.
More importantly, the changes to the Netscape Guide are not "effectively excluding GTE and other Internet Yellow Pages providers from Internet access points," as the press release describes.
Netscape is an important venue, but it is hardly the only place GTE and others can generate traffic. In fact, GTE SuperPages has exclusive placement deals with Excite, Lycos and WebCrawler, all of which probably produce more traffic than prime positioning in the Netscape Guide will.
Furthermore, while GTE SuperPages is not listed in the Netscape Guide, it does continue to be listed on Netscape's Net Search page's Yellow Page area. If Netscape were being monopolistic, it would hardly continue this listing. Likewise, Yahoo offers its own Yellow Pages listing, rather than a joint national guide made up of Baby Bell offerings. Again, this is not monopolistic behavior.
Earlier this year, GTE filed a similar suit in the Texas court system, where actions are still proceeding. Also earlier this year, online Yellow Pages-provider Switchboard asked the US Department of Justice to also investigate the arrangement, saying that it may violate anti-trust laws.
GTE Lawsuit Press Release
Netscape Guide Yellow Pages
Netscape Net Search Page
GTE Lawsuit Accuses Baby Bells Of Monopolizing Online Yellow Pages
WebWeek, Oct. 13, 1997
Netscape, Yahoo Under Fire Over Guide Listings
Excite Expands In Japan
Excite has formed a joint venture with Itochu Corporation to expand and enhance search-oriented services for the Japanese market.
Excite Japan launched in July of this year, but like most of Excite's International editions, it has remained a domain-filtered subset of the main Excite Search service. It does not have channel-oriented content, email, chat or other services that characterize the main Excite service.
The new venture with a local company aims to change this, as well as let Excite better sell the service to advertisers.
"This marriage of our strong Internet brand and services with Itochu's leading local marketing, sales and infrastructure and
DNP's unsurpassed access to local content lets us execute immediately in the rapidly expanding Japanese Internet marketplace," said George Bell, CEO and president of Excite.
Excite partners for Japan
News.com, Oct. 13, 1997
AltaVista Partners With Amazon
AltaVista is now listing links to Amazon-related books in its search results. AltaVista was the last of the major search engines not to have a retailing deal with an online bookseller. In fact, it was the only major search engine not to have a retailing deal at all.
Excite To Acquire Shopping Search Service, Announces New Partnerships
Excite has signed an agreement to acquire NetBot, a shopping search service. It also announced a number of new online retailing partnerships.
NetBot scans merchant sites to provide comparison reviews, product pricing and other information in response to searches.
Excite is to swap $35 million of stock for NetBot, and its functionality is to be merged into the service later this year.
Excite has also added new retailing partners to its service, including Auto-By-Tel, CDnow and GolfWeb, among others.
Excite says the new deals, along with existing relationships, amount to $80 million, over the life of the contracts. The contracts generally run between two and three years. Excite receives both advertising revenues and a share of the online transactions.
Excite Launches Business & Investing Channel
Excite has added a new Business & Investing Channel in October, in conjunction with Intuit.
The channel features content aimed at helping people with investments, banking, mortgages, taxes, planning, insurance and other financial needs.
The channel is also be made available from the Quicken web site and from within WebCrawler.
Excite Business & Investing Channel
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