Search Engine Acquisitions


This page lists articles from Search Engine Watch and around the web relating to acquisitions in the search space. See also the now archived Search Engine Acquisitions Chart, which shows some key acquisitions from the late 1990s through 2000.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline. Also, some very old articles flagged “no longer online” might indeed be online — but the former URL no longer resolves, and it’s not worth the time investment for me to try and personally track down these down versus spending time producing new content.

Jump to articles from:
Sept. 2004 Onward
Jan-Aug 20042003
2002-200019991998 & Earlier

Articles From Jan-Aug 2004

RSS Attracts Really Serious Money
Wired News, Aug. 26, 2004

Weblog search tool Technorati has received a multimillion dollar investment.

24/7 Media Buys Search Marketing Firm, Aug. 20, 2004

Another search engine marketing firm acquisition, this time Decide Interactive being purchased for $15 million in cash and $11 million in shares, with $7.5 million additional depending on financial performance. Decide has been a major paid inclusion player, closely partnered with Yahoo — as well as managing paid placement campaigns.

ValueClick Closes Pricerunner Purchase
Forbes, Aug. 10, 2004

ValueClick now owns shopping search engine Pricerunner.

Yahoo Acquires Travel Company, Aug. 7, 2004

Yahoo has purchased FareChase, a small online travel company, which it hopes will help strengthen its Yahoo Travel area.

S.Korea’s Daum say may buy Lycos, but no deal yet
Reuters, July 29, 2004

We’re talking, but we haven’t actually bought Lycos, says Daum.

MSN adds to search tools by snapping up Lookout
Seattle Times, July 16, 2004

MSN has purchased a firm that makes searching through Outlook’s email data easier, along with desktop searching. I know of at least two other tools that also allow Outlook searching, which are mentioned here, But the acquisition suggests that Microsoft may finally improve the native searching within Outlook, plus perhaps make use of the technology and human resources to improve web and desktop searching.

Google Acquires Picasa
ClickZ, July 13, 2004

My life changed when I started using Adobe Photoshop Album earlier this year, in terms of how I organize my digital photos. With only minor work to tag my photos, I can now instantly find all those showing my kids, my wife, taken at Disneyland, at Stonehenge, during a birthday, at Christmas and so on. Apparently, Picasa is a similar photo search and organization tool. It was just picked up by Google, which gives the company its first solid entry into desktop searching, at least in terms of photos. Plus, the ability to build online photo albums gives Google a new way to lock people to its portal.

Digital Impact Buys Search Marketer Marketleap for $3.8 Million, July 13, 2004

More consolidation in the search engine marketing space, as email marketing provide Digital Impact picks up SEM firm Marketleap in a deal valued at $3.8 million.

Yahoo acquires Oddpost to bolster email, July 12, 2004

The most important upgrade Yahoo made to its email system last June wasn’t increased storage. Instead, it was that the speed of searching dropped from taking as long as a minute to Gmail like sub-second times. Nevertheless, Yahoo apparently sees more work to do as it competes with Google over this portal feature, given the acquisition of Oddpost, an online email provider.

FindWhat Closes Espotting Buy, Gets New President
ClickZ, July 1, 2004

US-based paid listings provider FindWhat and Europe-based paid listings provider Espotting have completed their merger. Though merged, both companies will continue to operate separately and retain their names.

Banner day for online ad biz
The Deal, June 29, 2004

Search engine marketing firms may get gobbled up as internet advertising continues to regain strength.

Traffix Buys SEM Firm, June 11, 2004

The acquisitions continue, with SEM firm SendTraffic to be purchased by online direct marketing company Traffix in a stock and cash deal worth $5.4 million.

Ask Jeeves Buys Tukaroo
Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2004

Securing its future against expected desktop search moves by Microsoft and Google, Ask Jeeves has acquired search technology company Tukaroo. The company hadn’t yet released any products but promised advances in desktop and other searching.

On the DoubleClick-Performics Deal
iMedia Connection, May 18, 2004

DoubleClick buys Performics — is this the start of a new wave of consolidation for search marketing firms? Perhaps, but consolidations also open up new problems, as this article examines.

DoubleClick Adds Search Tool With $65M Performics Buy, May 18, 2004

DoubleClick is buying affiliate and search marketing company Performics, giving the online ad company an entry into the growing space of search marketing.

Ask Jeeves Lays Out Plans for Interactive Search Holdings
ClickZ, May 13, 2004

Ask Jeeves has completed its purchase of ISH. Now it’s looking to update the MyWay and iWon portals, just two of several significant search sites it now owns.

LookSmart Acquires Net Nanny
ClickZ, April 29, 2004

LookSmart buys filtering software company Net Nanny for $5 million in cash and stock. The company thinks its search technology will make Net Nanny stronger, while Net Nanny will give LookSmart a way onto computer desktops.

LookSmart back in UK under the banner of UK Directory
Revolution, April 23, 2004

LookSmart has sold its former UK directory and traffic to the former LookSmart UK web site to UK Net Guide. That company apparently plans to merge LookSmart UK information with its own and keep a combined database together, going forward.

Ask Jeeves: Why Buy Interactive Search Holdings?
SearchDay, Apr. 8, 2004

Ask Jeeves’ recent acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings has gone largely unremarked amid the recent sparring between industry titans Yahoo and Google. But the acquisition is significant, broadening Jeeves’ reach and providing new resources that will be used to beef up its core Teoma search technology.

The Case for Infospace + Google
Traffick, March 27, 2004

Grab Infospace, and Google could take lots of metasearch traffic away from its competitors.

Stoked on search deals, March 26, 2004

Yahoo buys European shopping search engine Kelkoo. Infospace buys yellow pages provider Switchboard. Mamma and Ask Jeeves see big stock jumps. It’s a whole new round of search buying!

The bubble’s not on the advertising side — there’s definitely demand there. But the fever to buy search companies might be too hot. But when Microsoft says they have “regrets” about not having done more in search earlier, folks don’t want to miss out.

One analyst in the story says it is Microsoft’s way to build, not buy — and it will do the same in search. It certainly is doing this, but there have been plenty of times it has bought to get ahead quickly. I think its actually unusual that in the case of search, it hasn’t.

FrontPage — a purchase. eShop? Hotmail? Visio? Vicinity? Purchases (see here and here for more).

Remember MS-DOS? Started off with a license. In fact, Microsoft didn’t even take on Netscape from scratch. The company licensed code from NCSA to get started (see here and here for more).

Microsoft did look at AltaVista last year. After not getting it, it first said it wasn’t really “serious” then declared soon after that it had gained search religion and would build things itself. If it had been willing to sell, Google would have been a killer purchase to have, as I explained in Surprised Google & Microsoft Talked Takeover? You Shouldn’t Be!

Today, Microsoft says it’s continuing onward with its own internal development and says that we might see its crawler appear by the end of the year. But imagine if Microsoft had purchased someone like AltaVista, AllTheWeb or even Ask Jeeves. Rather than being behind an eternity in internet time, Microsoft would be competing just as strongly as Yahoo is now doing.

FYI, 2003 was the busiest year for search acquisitions since 1999, the last time we had a frenzy like this.

InfoSpace to bring Switchboard on board, March 26, 2004

InfoSpace plans to purchase online yellow pages provider Switchboard for $160 million. Bad news for Verizon, which currently provides its yellow pages data to InfoSpace.

Yahoo says bienvenue to Kelkoo, March 26, 2004

Yahoo plans to purchase European shopping search engine Kelkoo for $579 million. Yahoo has long operated its own internal shopping search engine in the US, which was recently upgraded. In Europe, it seems to have partnered with for this. Now with Kelkoo, it will own European-based technology and a strong brand. In addition, Kelkoo currently powers shopping search at MSN’s UK site and likely other European ones, as well. Google’s Froogle service, now over a year old, still doesn’t carry products outside the US.

TripAdvisor bought by Diller’s InterActiveCorp
Boston Business Journal, March 16, 2004

Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, parent company of Citysearch, has purchased the TripAdvisor travel search engine.

Busy Week For
ClickZ, March 5, 2004

Mamma plans to acquire an email marketing/popup-under firm, adds new advertising features and sees its stock skyrocket after announcing a fourth quarter profit.

Ask Jeeves to buy Web network for $343 million, March 4, 2004

Ask Jeeves is purchasing Interactive Search Holdings (formerly The Excite Network), which operates iWon, Excite and the MyWay search sites. Ask will pay $150 million in cash, an additional $17.5 million based on performance and issue 9.3 million shares of stock to make the deal valued at $343 million. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Ask Jeeves says the purchase will double the amount of search traffic it currently handles. FYI, Search Engine Watch has a follow-up article looking more closely at the purchase coming out in SearchDay in the near future.

FindWhat Acquires Comet Systems
ClickZ News, Feb. 24, 2004

FindWhat gets Comet Systems, which makes the Comet Cursor and gives FindWhat an in to millions of desktops running the software.

The coming search wars
New York Times, Feb. 2, 2004

Readers of this newsletter are all too aware of the fact that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all battling it out to maintain positions as major players in search — along with Ask Jeeves and AOL, of course. This article looks at Microsoft going on the attack and Google responses so far to it. Cites the recent statement from Microsoft chairman Bill Gates about being behind in search, viewing Google as a leader and vowing to catch up. But catching up is hard when you lose key people to Google, such as apparently a Microsoft VP who was working to develop Microsoft’s own search engine.

Lots of comments from veterans of battles against Microsoft but who don’t necessarily know anything about search. For example, one says that Microsoft might not get away with “integrating” search because of the US Justice Department consent decree. As is often the case, the comment completely ignores the fact that search is already integrated into both Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system and has been for years.

Argh! Please spare us all from one more quote about how the next Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn, is somehow going to do what exists now. Push the search button right now in Internet Explorer. Hello, you get MSN Search. Enter a word into the Internet Explorer address bar. Hello, MSN Search! Operating system integration? Click Start, then Search in Windows XP. The dialog box that appears asks, “What do you want to search for?” Did you choose, “Search the Internet?” Hello, MSN Search!

This isn’t new — see my last article on such integration from back in 2002, which itself was an update on long-standing integration: Searching & Navigating Via Internet Explorer.

The article discusses Microsoft’s attempts to woo away Google employees and reports Google’s allegations that Microsoft is trying to partner with companies upset over lost rankings on Google. This part is woefully lacking in detail, which is sorely needed. How does Microsoft know what companies these are? Perhaps by reading through popular search forums? If so, what exactly is Microsoft offering — guaranteed top rankings? And if so, for what, for free? And that helps the Microsoft business model how?

Much more likely, Microsoft is trying to entice major Google advertisers to make use of its own long-standing paid listing program, which will eventually likely be transformed into a replacement for carrying Overture listings. That doesn’t necessarily hurt Google — after all, people will continue to advertise on Google as long as it commands serious, unduplicated search traffic. Instead, it would much more hurt Yahoo, cutting it out of the share of advertising revenues it currently gets from MSN’s use of its Overture business unit.

The popular media seems desperate to pose Microsoft-Google as a repeat of Microsoft-Netscape, as if we are dealing with a software product. Search is not software. Search does have roots in technology, but overall, it’s a media product. Currently, it’s difficult to lock users into a particular search product, as with a browser, because search does not require a particular software application.

Maybe Microsoft will come up with a product that’s so tied to software that it people will get locked in. But operating system and browser integration isn’t going to be it. In addition, unlike Netscape, Google isn’t dependent on selling software. And unlike with Netscape, there’s a third strong player, Yahoo, in all of this. Not to mention AOL and Ask Jeeves!

This isn’t Microsoft-Netscape part two. Instead, this is ABC-NBC-CBS-FOX. There’s unlikely to be one overall winner, but a particular search network may get a larger share than others depending on the quality of its programming. (permalink to this item)

Google eyes email-based ad delivery
Reuters, Jan. 19, 2004,39020645,39119164,00.htm

Is Google getting into email? It may be, and it wouldn’t be surprising. This article focuses on rumors that Google may insert ads into emails. In fact, Google inherited a contextual email service when it bought Sprinks earlier this year. However, Google may be planning to go beyond what Sprinks did by automatically inserting ads into email, based on the content.

What email? That remains unclear. The company could consider offering a Yahoo Groups like service, allowing people to set up their own email lists about different subjects. If so, delivering ads to that content wouldn’t be difficult.

Google could also be considering offering its own free email service. If so, that might be monetized by inserting ads. However, targeting such ads will be difficult and perhaps even annoying to people who might dislike the idea that their private email is being analyzed for ad purposes.

Offering free email certainly would help Google with the idea of “lock-in.” Currently, if users dislike Google’s results, it’s an easy step to use Yahoo, MSN or another competitor instead. No need to return to Google. But if Google offers email? That might keep you sticking around the site, much as Yahoo has millions of registered users and its own form of lock-in.

Who needs another email account? Not many. But envision Google rolling out a system that lets you store and sort through your email online, perhaps also providing spam filtering. Suddenly, the company would still be in the business of “organizing” information and perhaps offering a compelling reason for people to switch or forward their email. Perhaps it might look to acquire a company to help with this, as I wrote at the end of last year.

One email company Google already owns is Neotonic, which makes the Trakken email support system. Google used the system for its own purposes, then apparently liked it so much that it bought the company.

Visiting Neotronic now provides no indication that it’s owned by Google. But last week, before this Reuters story broke, the Neotonic home page stated, “We are pleased to announce that on April 24, 2003, Google Technology, Inc. acquired Neotonic to bring the Trakken email management system in-house. At this time we are not signing up any new customers.”

By the way, Google has never ruled out free email. It’s definitely made noises that it never wanted to be a full-fledged portal. However, cofounder Larry Page said back in 1999 that free email could happen, in the right circumstances.

“We wouldn’t put free email on our site unless we thought we could do a much better job,” Page said. See my interview on this, from back then.

Articles From 2003

Flurry of Online Ad Industry Acquisitions Begs Questions, Gets Answers
MediaDailyNews, Dec. 22, 2003

Over the past year, there’s been a flurry of partnerships and acquisitions. Much was search related. Here’s a recap of deals you heard about and perhaps some you didn’t.

Kanoodle Nets Sprinks Team, Hopes To Emerge From Obscurity
MediaDailyNews, Dec. 17, 2003

When Google bought Sprinks last year, it quickly moved to shutdown that contextual ads competitor and put its own Google AdSense product into distribution. Smart move — wiping out both a competitor and gaining traffic share in one go. But Google didn’t pick up some Sprinks executives as part of the acquisition.

Now a trio of them have flown over to Kanoodle, where they hope with new funding to build a new contextual ads product to take on Google. The coup gives Kanoodle potential in terms of knowledge, but it has a huge job to even approach the distribution that Sprinks once had due to its association with, much less touch the juggernaut that Google AdSense has become.

aQuantive picks up Colo. tech firm that helps track Net ads
Seattle Times, Dec. 16, 2003

aQuantive has acquired paid listings management tool maker GO TOAST.

Yahoo buys Chinese software firm, Nov. 21, 2003

Yahoo gets into the keyword navigation space — at least in China.

AOL Buys Singingfish, Rolls Out More Search Changes
SearchDay, Nov. 19, 2003

AOL has acquired Singingfish, a multimedia search engine, and unveiled additional features to the AOL Search service designed for its members.

Surprised Google & Microsoft Talked Takeover? You Shouldn’t Be!
SearchDay, Nov. 5, 2003

A headline frenzy was sparked last Friday when the New York Times reported that Microsoft had talked with Google about a possible takeover within the past two months. No one should have been surprised that the companies have talked about a possible purchase. It made sense then. As for now, a more realistic possibility is that the two might partner in the short term. A look at why a takeover would have made sense, why Google can go it alone as a media company, what Google might and might not do with cash from an IPO and how there will probably be no real losers in the search sweepstakes that’s underway.

Former Overture executive joins Microsoft
Reuters, Nov. 2, 2003

MSN is breaking up into two divisions. One will focus on communications, involving portal features such as the Hotmail email service and the MSN Messenger instant messaging service. The other focuses on information, which includes search. Along with this change, MSN also announced that it had wooed former Overture chief technology officer Paul Ryan to work for Microsoft. His new title is telling: general manager of MSN monetization. Capturing Ryan suggests that in addition to building its own crawler-based search engine, MSN is now aiming to move forward with its own in-house paid listings program, as well.

Google searches for winning ad strategy, Oct. 28, 2003

I suspected Google would use little of Sprinks, and that appears to be what’s happening, given that advertisers aren’t able to continue funding their Sprinks accounts. So, I don’t buy into the “they need something more” argument of buying Sprinks some voice in this article. That doesn’t discount the fact that contextual ads from Google and others face challenges in the coming year, as the article also outlines.

Friendster spurns Google
San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 31, 2003

The “we’re all about search” pitch from Google was proven outdated when the company bought Blogger earlier this year, a move that had nothing to do with search or organizing information. Now it turns out Google wanted to purchase Friendster, an online dating site. I suppose that’s at least a little more search-centric, but it would still have been a stretch from the company’s supposed stated mission.

Google Buys Sprinks, Plans IPO
SearchDay, Oct. 24, 2003

In a busy financial day for Google, the company purchased Sprinks, the former paid listings division of PRIMEDIA’s, while it was also reported that an initial public offering is planned for early next year.

Yahoo vs. Google vs. Microsoft, Oct. 22, 2003

Who’s the bigger competitor to Yahoo, Google or Microsoft? Yahoo CEO Terry Semel groups MSN and AOL together as competitors while putting Google “kind of out there on its own.” Did Yahoo ever consider buying Google? No clear answer, on this one. Semel does say he “thinks” Yahoo owns some of Google. It’s odd to hear the CEO suggest that he doesn’t know. The answer is that Yahoo indeed does own a small portion of Google.

Overture Shareholders OK Yahoo Bid, Oct. 7, 2003

It’s official. Yahoo now owns Overture, and Overture president and CEO Ted Meisel becomes a Yahoo senior vice president.

Google Gets Personal, Oct. 1, 2003

Google has acquired Kaltix, a start-up company of three people that attracted attention back in July and August, just after it launched. The company promised advances in personalized search but provided no further details. Now Google’s bought them, likely because was an easy way to get three good people along with some personalization technology that might be leveraged. It’s the second firm dealing with personalization that Google has purchased. Outride was the first, acquired way back in September 2001. Two years later, Google has yet to do anything concrete with that technology. For more, see Google May Get Personal, (permalink to this item)

What next for Espotting?
NetImperative, Sept. 29, 2003

FindWhat is renegotiating the terms of its merger agreement with European paid listings service Espotting. The move puts Espotting in a weak position, with this article saying the merger seems essential to Espotting’s survival.

Google in need of a Friendster indeed?, Sept. 23, 2003

Rumor is that Google might be interested in acquiring Friendster, the friendship and dating web site.

The bubble that didn’t burst
The Guardian, Aug. 18, 2003,7558,1020606,00.html

Behind-the-scenes look at the founding and founders of Espotting, which announced plans to merge with FindWhat in June.

Searching for the personal touch, Aug. 12, 2003

I mentioned Kaltix briefly in a previous newsletter, a search start-up out of Stanford University (which gave birth to Yahoo and Google). There still remains little about the company, other than it plans to provide personalized and context-sensitive search.

Yahoo Stalked Overture for Over a Year
AP, Aug. 11, 2003,3959,1216504,00.asp

Yahoo’s been after overture since the middle of last year and put in a formal bid for the company last November, only to have that fail when Overture called off negotiations. Overture then went to buy AltaVista and AllTheWeb, moves that hurt its stock and brought it back to talking with Yahoo.

Overture Chief Sees Clear Sailing Ahead
The Street, Aug. 4, 2003

Overture CEO Ted Meisel says that being owned by Yahoo doesn’t mean Overture will lose relationships with other partners. Sure — not for some partners, but certainly it’s going to eventually cost Overture the MSN deal. Of course, Yahoo is purchasing Overture primarily for use on its own needs. So, any relationships that Overture retains really will be icing on the cake. Meisel also comments on plans to roll out geographically-targeted ads by the end of the year and that work to combine AltaVista and AllTheWeb will take through the end of the year — at which point Overture and Yahoo will have to then figure out how to combine everything with Inktomi.

Overture would owe Yahoo on merger breakup-filing
Reuters, July 17, 2003

The Yahoo-Overture deal isn’t done yet. A third party could always try to steal Overture away from Yahoo. However, Overture would then have to pay Yahoo $65 million.

FindWhat Finds the Spotlight, July 16, 2003

With Yahoo buying Overture, second-tier paid listings provider FindWhat is suddenly attracting attention as a possible MSN purchase.

Yahoo finds itself in search spotlight, July 14, 2003

Good after-the-purchase announcement coverage full of figures, such as now often-repeated estimates of how much paid listings will generate in revenue in the coming years and the possibility that Overture will need to pay Microsoft $50 million if the acquisition by Yahoo goes through. Not sure if I agree that Yahoo will reign in the amount it offers to partners to carry listings. In fact, the opposite might happen. Yahoo may consider any deal it gains to be extra revenue it wasn’t expecting to earn. Given this, it can afford to be more generous, especially if it believes that will hurt Google and build the Yahoo search brand.

Personalized Web Search Company Formed by Members of Stanford’s PageRank Project
ResourceShelf, July 12, 2003

Personalized search has often seemed like an obvious way forward for better results, but companies in the field have all disappeared over time. Ask Jeeves-owned Direct Hit abandoned research into this, then newcomer Outride was bought by Google, where the technology has yet to reemerge. Other newcomer BuzzNotes also failed to make a go of personalized search. Now may be entering the space — and may (or may not) have some Google connections, as well.

Autonomy Buy Bolsters Technology, Customer Base, July 10, 2003

Enterprise search company Autonomy has purchased video search company Virage.

FindWhat Acquires Espotting, June 18, 2003

US-based paid listings provider FindWhat and Europe-based paid listings provider Espotting have agreed to merge. It’s a big deal for both companies but probably means little to the typical advertiser.

If you were targeting the US via FindWhat, the merger doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly have your ad running in Europe — nor might you want that to happen. Similarly, those who have used Espotting in Europe won’t magically appear in the US.

Overall, you’ll probably still have to pick and choose the countries you want to target. With Google, you can do this via a single account. With Overture, that doesn’t happen. It will be interesting to see if the combined FindWhat/Espotting will take a more Google-like approach to this issue.

The Company That Bought The Bust
Washington Post, June 12, 2003

More about how David Seuss managed to buy back his former company Northern Light for about a half-penny for every dollar that Divine paid for Northern Light originally last year.

ValueClick Buys Search123, June 3, 2003

Ad company ValueClick has purchased cost-per-click search engine Search123 in a deal valued at $5 million.

Seuss Hopes Northern Light Will Rise and Shine
Information Today, June 2, 2003

What happens next, now that David Seuss has purchased the company he once ran? Northern Light will be aimed at the enterprise search market. But success, analysts point out, isn’t guaranteed.

Yahoo Act Two
BusinessWeek, June 2, 2003

Touches on Google as a key challenger to Yahoo, in that consumers are looking to search more and more as a way to access everything — and ad dollars are moving there, as well. Theorizes that if Yahoo were to acquire Overture, it would probably be to cut-off MSN from making a similar move.

Northern Light Readies for Return, May 29, 2003

Former Northern Light CEO C. David Seuss buys backs the search engine for $81,000 from now bankrupt Divine. Divine originally purchased Northern Light back in January 2002, in an all-stock deal. Terms were not released, but it’s fair to say, Seuss got a heavy discount. Seuss plans to enter the enterprise search market. From visiting the Northern Light web site, it also appears that the company wants to reenter the web search space.

Ask Jeeves Sells Enterprise Search Unit, May 28, 2003

And once again, a web search company that also did enterprise search decides it has to make a decision to favor one. In this case, Ask Jeeves decides web search is its future and sells off its Jeeves Solutions division to Kanisa.

Telefonica Launches Bid For 100% Of Terra Lycos
Dow Jones Business Wire, May 28, 2003

Telefonica has a nearly 40 percent stake in Terra Lycos but is aiming to own the entire company.

Search Engine Consolidation Ending: Report
Web Host News, May 20, 2003

The Yankee Group has issued a new report declaring that the web search market has reached a final consolidation to three major players, Yahoo, Overture and Google. Seems a bit premature. MSN is a search powerhouse that by rights needs to be counted as a fourth player. Of course, MSN lacks its own in-house search technology. It seems likely the company will rectify this situation by building internally or perhaps purchasing. And if it purchases, either LookSmart or Ask Jeeves would make easy targets — so there may still be some consolidation to come.

Overture Ignites on Buyout Rumor
The Street, May 16, 2003

The “Yahoo’s going to buy Overture” emerges once again.

DealTime and Epinions Complete Merger, May 13, 2003,,10375_2205601,00.html

Shopping search engine DealTime completes its acquisition of consumer reviews site Epinions.

Overture plays on in push for Web search success
Reuters, May 12, 2003,,t269-s2134528,00.html

Overture’s not on the defensive — it’s playing offense, says CEO Ted Meisel, in this interview. But developing a quality editorial listings product is taking longer and costing more than Overture expected, the company admits. A combined AllTheWeb/AltaVista index is expected by the end of the year, with paid inclusion for both services to be unified within the next 90 days.

Yahoo’s overtures to Overture, May 1, 2003

Scroll down to the second item, a revival of the rumor that Yahoo wants to purchase Overture. No hard facts, just more speculation.

Is Google’s ASI Deal a Threat to Overture?
SearchDay, April 27, 2003

Google’s announcement last week that it was buying Applied Semantics (ASI) sent shockwaves through the financial community, causing internet analysts from Credit Suisse First Boston, Smith Barney and USB Piper Jaffray to lower their ratings on Overture.

Overture Closes FAST Deal, April 22, 2003

It’s official — Overture now owns the AllTheWeb search engine, formerly operated by FAST.

Yahoo sits on $2 billion hoard, April 10, 2003

Despite Yahoo recently acquiring Inktomi, the company has plenty of cash still on hand in case it wants to go shopping for more.

Yahoo To Buy Espotting?
The Search Engine Update, March 18, 2003

The New York Post broke a rumor that Yahoo is interested in acquiring Espotting, a European paid listings service. Espotting denies the rumor. But, if such an acquisition does occur, it could signal that Yahoo really does wish to operate its own in-house cost-per-click paid listings program. Some observation and more about the possible move can be found below.

Disney Would Sell Infoseek Search Tech, Switches Go To Google, March 18, 2003

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 about the story, as well as the fact that Go is now being powered by Google rather than Overture, can be found below.

Grub Joins Forces with LookSmart
Grub, March 17, 2003

LookSmart has acquired distributed crawling company Grub.

DealTime to Acquire Epinions
SearchDay, Mar. 12, 2003

Shopping search engine DealTime is acquiring Epinions, one of the web’s most popular consumer opinion and review sites.

Overture CEO Ted Meisel Speaks On Acquisition Plans
The Search Engine Update, March 4, 2003

Not since 1996, when Excite purchased both Magellan and WebCrawler, have we seen one search engine company gobble up two others. Even then, Excite let a couple of months pass between acquisitions. Overture announced its two acquisitions within the space of just two weeks. The rapid move has people speculating what Overture will do next. Not another acquisition any time soon, assures Overture president and CEO Ted Meisel. As for how Overture will digest and use what’s already on the plate — AltaVista and the web search unit of FAST — Meisel provided further guidance on some key questions during an interview with me last week.

Where Are They Now? Search Engines We’ve Known & Loved
The Search Engine Report, March 4, 2003

AltaVista, the Google of its day, is now to be gobbled up by Overture. It’s a famous name that’s seen better days. But AltaVista’s not the only major search player to have faded, as years have gone by. Come along and see the early search engines that have died, those that have been transformed, who’s survived and how the “new” players that are no longer so young are doing, in the article below.


Espotting on the Overture/Fast deal
Pandia, Feb. 26, 2003

It took Overture-competitor Espotting a day to figure how to spin the Overture deal to acquire FAST’s web search division. When it finally issued a statement, the company suggested that Overture’s partners would see the purchases as threatening (at least one has privately confirmed this to me), since Overture will operate the AltaVista web site (which has been dying a slow death in terms of popularity) and the site (which receives virtually no search traffic compared to other major players). The company also says it expects deals in place with AltaVista and AllTheWeb to continue. In reality, expect Overture to get out of these as soon as it can. Pandia offers its own take on the impact on Espotting, working off of the company’s statement, in this article.

Overture To Buy FAST Web Search Division, Feb. 25, 2003

Overture announced its intention last month to purchase a second crawler-based search engine in as many weeks, that owned by FAST. The company operates the web site and provides results to other search engines such as An overview of the deal.

Overture To Buy AltaVista, Feb. 18, 2003

So you were supposed to get the newsletter yesterday, but I missed my filing deadline for a good reason — the breaking news that Overture intends to purchase AltaVista in a $140 million cash and stock deal. The story below has all the details, as we know them so far. Expect follow-ups as Overture begins to digest its purchase.

Google Buys Blogging Company – But Why?, Feb. 18, 2003

News broke earlier this week that Google has purchased Pyra Labs, the company behind the popular weblog creation tool and Blogspot, a weblog hosting service. So far, Google is staying quiet about what it hopes to gain by such a purchase, leaving plenty of people speculating.

Overture buys into search analytics, Jan. 15, 2003

Overture has bought web stat analytical firm Keylime Software. It’s likely the technology will be used to provide enhanced reporting, especially ROI reporting, for Overture advertisers.

Overture Gleeful Over Yahoo-Inktomi Deal, Jan. 9, 2003

Overture’s chief financial officer Todd Tappin believes that Yahoo’s acquisition of Inktomi and the company’s renewed emphasis on search will hurt Google, claiming the company will have to spend more money on marketing itself and on technical development and product innovation. This change will also benefit Overture, Tappin says, though exactly how wasn’t explained in the article above. The second article does suggest that major portals perhaps feeling Google is more a threat to them may choose to partner with Overture.

Will Google have to spend marketing money to defend its search brand? Not necessarily. “Google” has already become a verb used by some, similar those who might say they need to “Fed Ex” a package. This, plus Google’s growth overall, has happened with Google spending virtually nothing on marketing itself to search consumers. Great word of mouth, leading to positive press reviews, has been the chief factor in my view.

In contrast, past efforts by search engines to build their search brands through marketing haven’t proven that effective. Television was the big thing to do in 1997-1999, and it produced minor gains for some, typically in the range of a 5 percent rise in audience share. Northern Light is a classic example where all the spending it did translated into no real gain at all. Search Engine Watch members can see more commentary on charts from 1997-1999 from Media Metrix, found via this page.

Interestingly, it should be noted that Google does spend on marketing — but that money is almost exclusively on marketing itself to potential advertisers, to get them to try its paid listing products.

How about more money on technical resources? What, the 50+ PhDs Google already has on staff isn’t enough? Google has been constantly hiring people and been innovative in the marketplace even without the threat of Yahoo. In contrast, one of the reasons Yahoo may have wanted to acquire Inktomi in the first place could very well be that Google has gobbled up so many technical people already. Getting Inktomi is one way of getting a core group of people and, interestingly, denying them to would-be competitors.

In fact, one of the real mysteries in the Inktomi acquisition is why Overture didn’t buy them. The company remains lacking crawler-based editorial listings to offer its partners who want an all-in-one solution. Meanwhile, if Yahoo has moved to build its own in house crawling capabilities, there’s no reason why in a year or two, it might decide to build its own internal paid listing program — which would be a real threat to Overture. Certainly, that’s what Yahoo originally planned to do in 2002.

Crystal ball gazing is always hard. Yahoo certainly has set itself up now to compete with Google, and that will put pressure on the company. However, such pressure doesn’t mean that Google will necessarily be hurt, nor that Overture somehow magically benefits.

Articles From 2000-2002

Yahoo’s Google blooper, May 17, 2002

Rumor has it Yahoo offered $700 million to buy Google while Google countered with a price of $2 billion.

Yahoo buys top Brazil search engine from StarMedia
Reuters, Jan. 8, 2002

Yahoo has purchased Cade, a major search engine in Brazil.

Ask Jeeves Snaps Up eTour, May 22, 2001,,12_770961,00.html

Ask Jeeves has acquired the eTour service, which it apparently sees as a way to extend its advertising reach into email, as well as apparently fees for sending users to sites affiliated with eTour.

Portals In Peril: Excite@Home

Forbes, March 12, 2001

Just how dedicated is Excite@Home to maintaining the portal that makes up the first part of its name? There are suggestions that Excite might be cast loose, but there are also arguments for keeping it.

AltaVista puts Raging Bull on block

CBS MarketWatch, Dec. 26, 2000

AltaVista is selling off its Raging Bull stock market site, just over one year from when it purchased it.

Deja News Search Engine for Sale: News and Irresponsible Speculation

ResearchBuzz, Oct. 17, 2000

ResearchBuzz’s Tara Calishain takes an interesting stab at where she thinks the Deja newsgroup archives might fit (see next article, below)

Deja Puts Sale Up For Discussion

ZDNet, Oct. 15, 2000,4164,2640446,00.html

In the latest in the Deja’s newsgroup search saga, the archives and the associated online reading service are to be sold.

Analysts: Lycos bailed out while it could, May 16, 2000

Round-up of views on the Terra Networks buyout of Lycos.

Ask Jeeves scuttles spin-off plans, February 17, 2000

Ask Jeeves says no to a separate search site to serve up sex-related answers.

Articles From 1999

Bertelsmann plans IPO for merged search engines

Bloomberg, Sept. 23, 1999

Bertelsmann plans to merge Lycos Europe with the popular German Fireball search engine and take them public next year.

Q & A: Jeff Bennett, Lycos V.P. of E-Commerce, Aug. 20, 1999

Lycos VP discussed where the company is going in e-tailing and e-commerce.

Compaq, CMGI finalize Alta Vista deal, Aug. 19, 1999,4,40692,00.html

It’s official — CMGI now has the controlling stake in AltaVista.

Infoseek jumps on talk of buyout by Disney, June 15, 1999,4,37847,00.html

Disney may purchase the rest of Infoseek that it does not already own.

NBC Seals Net Deal; Diller Dumps Lycos

Internet World, May 17, 1999

Contrasts the collapse of the Lycos-USA Networks deal to the newly-announced NBC Interactive company that combines Snap, Xoom and other Internet properties.

USA Networks, Lycos, Ticketmaster Online Terminate Merger, May 12, 1999,1087,3_115521,00.html

Recap of the Lycos-USA Networks deal collapsing.

Yahoo Acquires for $5.7 Billion, April 1, 1999,1087,3_90621,00.html

Yahoo is to acquire online audio/video company in a $5.7 billion stock swap.

Yahoo maps its future, will buy
San Jose Mercury News, April 1, 1999

More details about the deal. Model Has Portals Thinking
Internet World, March 29, 1999

Written before Yahoo’s acquisition, it still provides details on why portals are interested in multimedia partnerships.

Paul Allen’s vision: Net search on TV
Bloomberg, March 15, 1999,4,33748,00.html

Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen intends to purchase up to 26 percent of Go2Net, which incorporates the MetaCrawler search service.

AltaVista Adds Another Piece

Internet World, Feb. 22, 1999

Details about Compaq purchase of Zip2, which specializes in creating local portals for media partners such as newspapers. Compaq hopes the purchase will help its e-commerce goals for AltaVista.

Compaq Acquires Zip2, Feb. 16, 1999,1087,3_68791,00.html

Compaq is to purchase Zip2, which specializes in creating local portals for media partners such as newspapers. Compaq hopes the purchase will help its e-commerce goals for AltaVista.

AltaVista Takes Stake in Video Search Firm, Feb. 9, 1999,1087,7_65951_,00.html

AltaVista has made a 10 percent investment in video and image search company Virage.

The urge to merge on the Net

US News & World Report, February 1999

Net merger mania continues, Jan. 28, 1999,4,31625,00.html

Excite at a crossroads, CEO says, Dec. 14, 1998,4,29848,00.html

Excite CEO George Bell on the AOL-Netscape deal and other issues.

Articles From 1998 & Earlier

Yahoo Buys Marketer, Hoping To Build Ad Base
Internet World, Oct. 19, 1998

Yahoo Is Treading Gently In Buyout of Mall Operator
Internet World, June 15, 1998

Yahoo speaks on e-commerce buy, June 10, 1998,4,23003,00.html

Lycos Eyes More Acquisitions
Inter@ctive Week, May 15, 1998

Lycos has been a conservative spender, but its recent acquisition of WiseWire may be the first of several meant to keep it competitive or overtake players such as Yahoo and Excite.

Search chiefs “converge”
Reuters, May 7, 1998,4,21893,00.html

Top executives from six search services come together on one panel. Word is that not much of interest was said, and this article certainly says nothing more than they all expect more mergers and acquisitions in the future.

Infoseek Goes shopping
Red Herring, Feb. 12, 1999

The Go Network plans to roll out a comparison shopping site soon, and it will be powered by Inktomi technology, rather than the Quando system Infoseek acquired last year.

Search Engines See Huge Value In Community Sites
Internet World, Feb. 9, 1998

Lycos buys Tripod; Yahoo invests in GeoCities. A look at why search engines are interested in these community sites.

Lycos Buys Tripod
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 3, 1998

Details about Lycos acquiring the community provider, with links to related articles.

Excite Buys Ad Tracking Firm in Stock Deal Worth $120M
Web Week, January 19, 1998

Excite Buys Search-Technology Firm for $35M
WebWeek, Oct. 20, 1997

Details about Excite’s $35 million stock swap for the NetBot service and how it plans to transform it from a software-product to one accessible via the web.

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