Movement In Meta Search
From The Search Engine Report
May 3, 2000
Meta search engine ProFusion was acquired by search utility maker Intelliseek in April, making it the third major meta search engine to be gobbled up in recent months.
The trend started last August, when Go2Net acquired meta search site Dogpile in a US $55 million deal. The move was especially notable because Go2Net already had absorbed the web's most popular meta search service, MetaCrawler, in November 1998. Acquiring Dogpile gave Go2Net a second popular meta search service. Why buy what Go2Net already had? To lock up the market.
"We had the number one search service, and this was number two, and we wanted to own the meta search category," said Dr. Oren Etzioni, Go2Net's chief technology officer and creator of MetaCrawler, in an interview last year.
It's not a bad category for Go2Net to own, especially given that some search engines actually pay to be carried in the meta search results. It's a way for smaller, standalone search engines to extend their reach to new users and been seen alongside the more established players. For instance, pay-for-placement search engine GoTo.com recently cut new deals with both Go2Net and meta search engine Mamma.com. The deal ensures GoTo's results, and thus its advertiser-supported links, will be placed before more eyeballs.
Meta search is also a good category because it may attract search users dissatisfied with standalone search engines. This is especially so when articles appear that discuss how "little" of the web each search engine covers or how results can be different from engine to engine. The natural solution to these concerns for a user is to turn to a meta search engine, which provide the top results from several search engines all at once.
Nevertheless, only Go2Net seems to have leveraged meta search into attracting big traffic. The site now regularly lands in Media Metrix's top rankings, though much of that traffic may be driven by Go2Net's other content, such as the Silicon Investor web site.
Cnet is another player that's entered the meta search competition. In October, it acquired the popular SavvySearch service in a $22 million deal. SavvySearch continues to run as an independent web site, but its technology was integrated last month into Cnet's long-standing Search.com site. Previously, Search.com had been powered by Infoseek.
Until now, Cnet hasn't seemed to invest much time in Search.com. The inattention began when Cnet launched Snap.com back in September 1997, aiming the site to take on the likes of Yahoo, Lycos, Excite and other portals. With Snap now owned primarily by US television network NBC, Cnet seems to have thoughts about targeting search again.
Like MetaCrawler and SavvySearch, ProFusion originally began at a university. It went private, then Intelliseek purchased it last month. Intelliseek makes the well-regarded BullsEye meta search software. The acquisition of ProFusion now gives it low-traffic but established search site that it can expand and enhance.
From a user perspective, these deals mean that the meta search services named are likely to grow and be developed. Of course, that doesn't mean that "independent" meta search sites such as Mamma.com or C4.com won't also develop. In fact, the recent acquisitions will probably help other services attract investment, since value is clearly being attached to meta search.
Similarly, huge success by meta search engines could ultimately cause the "main" search engines that they depend on to cut off licensing agreements, which most of the major meta search sites establish in order to avoid legal problems. However, for the moment, the major search engines generally say that meta search sites pose little burden and even provide them with some exposure. Consequently, it's a win-win for both parties.
Search Links: Metacrawlers
You want meta search? Have no idea what it is? Links and answers are here.
Relaunched in January, the service added music and auction meta search capabilities, the ability to customize their searches to return results from more than 25 specifically requested countries, and included Google as one of the services queried.
You'll find SavvySearch's meta search technology here, for both general purpose searching and to power topical meta search offerings.
CNET Investor Message Board Area
Provides meta search across major investment discussion areas.
Courting Retailers: Metasearchers Increasingly Cozy up to E-Commerce Sites
Internet World, Jan. 15, 2000
More details on how and why some search and shopping sites are paying to be carried on meta search engines.