The Go.com site is to close by the end of February, according to a surprise announcement today from owner Walt Disney Company, marking the end of one of the web's oldest major search resources.
"Our plan is to shut down the site 30 days from today," said Susan Murdy, Go's vice president of communications.
"For the next couple of days, we're going to keep the site as is, in sort of autopilot mode. After a few days, we're going to streamline the look and the functionality of Go, keeping popular features such as email and stock portfolios," Murdy said. Search capabilities will also be retained, during the shutdown period, Murdy confirmed.
Go emerged from the Infoseek web site, which launched back in February 1995. Founded by Steve Kirsch, Infoseek was initially designed to be a subscription-based search service. The notion of pay for search was quickly dropped due to low conversion. Instead, an advertising-based model was pursued.
Infoseek, and later Go, has consistently been one of the web's most visited destinations. However, the decision to convert the search engine into a "portal" site back in 1998 appears to have been its undoing.
In the middle of 1998, Disney took a large stake in Infoseek, in exchange for that company acquiring some Disney-backed online properties, such ESPN.com. By December 1998, a new "Go.com" site had launched. It was designed to serve as a hub for various Disney properties.
By the middle of 1999, around the peak of portal rage, the separate Infoseek site had been closed and all traffic routed to Go.com. The Infoseek brand, which should have been a major asset for Disney, was instead assimilated into Go with Borg-like efficiency. The Infoseek company itself was also merged later that year into a new company named after the portal, Go.com. This company was then renamed the Walt Disney Internet Group and known as DIG, after its New York Stock Exchange symbol. Now, the Go.com site is closing, and DIG is being merged back into Disney.
A year after Go's launch, the difficulties of winning the portal wars -- involving keeping millions of people loyal to your web site and, importantly, earning money off the free email, free home pages and other free services provided to them -- grew apparent to Disney. In January 2000, the company announced that Go would no longer be a "general" purpose portal but instead would concentrate on featuring entertainment content.
By October 2000, the new "freetime" site was launched with great fanfare, but the move appears to be too little, too late for Disney. With today's announcement, 400 employees of Go were laid off.
In relation to search, Go has three core assets: its crawler-based search engine, a volunteer directory of web sites called Go Guides, and the traffic to the Go.com site itself. The company is looking for a buyer for any of these.
"We're tying to sell all or part of the assets, depending on the interest in the market," said Murdy. No company have yet approached Go, Murdy said, but the closure announcement has only just been made.
Go already sold core search technology to Inktomi, late last year. Its Ultraseek subsidiary, which provides search solutions for web sites and intranets, was acquired by Inktomi in June 2000.
Go continues to have its own web-wide searching capability, but even the company has admitted in the past that this hasn't been supported over the past year. It's uncertain who, if anyone, would wish to acquire it.
The volunteer Go Guides directory might be of interest to a player without a human-compiled guide to the web, but the market here is tough, given that the Open Directory provides its listings to anyone who wants them for free, while LookSmart pitches its listings to sites as something to take as a revenue generating move, given its paid submission model.
Go recently unveiled its own $199 paid inclusion service for its crawler-based listings, which promised a year's worth of regular reindexing. The company says it will now be issuing refunds to anyone who signed up for this.
"Go does plan to offer a refund. All of the specifics of the refund are being sorted out -- although it is likely that submitters will be credited via their credit card accounts," said Murdy.
In all, the closure is sad not only for the Go employees but also for the many loyal web users that loved the Infoseek search engine. It was a wonderful and well-used tool in its time, and users did grieve as it was subsumed by Go. The question now is, will embattled AltaVista find itself in the same situation? After another round of layoffs earlier this month, owner CMGI could decide to follow Disney's lead. Similar to Go, AltaVista was a well-loved service that lost its way after being taken down the portal path.
Go Closure Press Release
Walt Disney, January 29, 2001
Disney to Discontinue Go.com Portal
LA.internet.com, Jan. 29, 2001
More coverage on the closure.
Disney to shutter Go.com portal
News.com, Jan. 29, 2001
Coverage on closure, with comparisons to others in the portal game.
Yahoo Full Coverage: Disney to Close GO.com Portal
Currently features a collection of articles on the closure.
Infoseek Memorial Services
Online discussions from web marketers about the passing of Go/Infoseek, once a favorite for generating traffic.
Old Media Buys Into New Media
The Search Engine Report, July 1, 1998
Details on Disney's initial involvement with Infoseek.
Go Arrives from Disney and Infoseek
The Search Engine Report, January 5, 1999
Article on launch of new Go.com site.
Infoseek Adds New Search Features
The Search Engine Report, June 2, 1999
Details the final conversion of Infoseek into Go.com
Go Going Elsewhere, Loses Logo
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 3, 2000
Go announces it is giving up its attempt to be a general purpose portal.
Inktomi To Acquire Ultraseek From Go.com
SearchEngineWatch.com, June 8, 2000
Inktomi aquires some of Go's search technology for enterprise and Intranet applications.
New Go Site Goes Up
The Search Engine Update, Nov. 3, 2000
The new Go.com site launches, designed to focus on "freetime" information.
Go Gains Paid Inclusion System
The Search Engine Report, Jan. 3, 2001
Details on Go's paid inclusion system. It was the latest search engine to roll out a system designed to produce a non-ad based form of revenue, but it wasn't enough to save the company.