Disney Shops Infoseek, Switches Go To Google

The Walt Disney Internet Group says that it has been approached by companies looking to acquire the search technology and patents it has left over from the company's purchase of Infoseek, the search engine later transformed into Go.

Realistically, the search technology is worth nothing. Infoseek's technology last operated to crawl the web back in January 2001 -- and even then, the technology was dated. More than two long internet years later, it's hard to imagine anyone doing much with Infoseek's dusty remains.

As for patents, they may offer much more value. AltaVista's patents on search technology were definitely a factor in Overture's announcement that it was going to acquire AltaVista. Overture has publicly said it hopes the patents will protect it from others that claim a protected right to crawl the web to gather search results.

Search Engine Watch's Search Engines & Legal Issues page has a round-up of stories about patents relating to web search. The only patent I've ever seen granted to Infoseek was for distributed searching, something much different from crawling the web. However, there may be other patents that Disney holds.

Ironically, Disney initially said that it was offering its search technology for sale when it announced the closure of its Go.com portal. A group of former Infoseek/Go employees and investors did approach the company with a serious offer to buy both the technology and the Infoseek brand name, according to Patrick Ford, Go's former lead ontologist. However, Disney apparently refused any discussion.

"They wanted the name Infoseek to remain dead, rather than resurface as an embarrassing reminder of their marketing blunders and mismanagement," says Ford.

Go never actually closed. Instead, it began to be powered by Overture soon after the closure announcement. It was a move that allied Disney with the same company that successfully sued it for $21.5 million in a trademark lawsuit involving logos.

That partnership has now ended. This month, Disney announced that Go would be powered by Google. Whether anyone will notice is a different matter. Formerly one of the web's most popular search engines, today Go hardly registers as a popular search destination.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.