Feeds

Search engines we have known ... before Google crushed them

Dot.coms of the past slurped themselves into oblivion

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

WebCrawler

More or less all of the search engines are connected in some way to WebCrawler, the metasearch system that aggregates results from various engines. Originally just a regular search engine, the site started gobbling information from a range of search engines fairly quickly after it was passed around like a hot potato.

Created by Brian Pinkerton and launched in 1994, WebCrawler was bought by America Online the following year and then palmed onto Excite in 1996. After Excite went titsup, WebCrawler was picked up by InfoSpace, which also runs metasearch engines Dogpile and MetaCrawler, all of which are still online today.

Brian Pinkerton now works at A9, Amazon's search and advertising subsidiary.

Excite

One-time WebCrawler owner Excite was a big internet player in the 1990s; it had an instantly recognisable web brand and slurped early search engine Magellan as well as WebCrawler. Founded by a whole bunch of students at Stanford University, Excite went live in 1995.

Excite screenshot

Excite

As well as eating up rival engines, Excite built up solid financial backing and signed exclusive agreements with Netscape, Microsoft and other big boys of the day. In an effort to differentiate itself, Excite started out with reviews of websites, but that idea was dumped in 1998 when it realised users just wanted to get straight to the content. Excite was never just search though, it was a whole portal that included news and weather, email, instant messaging, stock quotes and more.

The portal went public in 1996 and continued to grow and diversify into an early internet behemoth. It nabbed Netbot, the comparison shopping site, in 1997 and signed a deal with Ticketmaster at the same time. But the unwieldy net giant was running into trouble, reporting a net loss at the start of 1998 and admitting it only had enough cash to limp along for the rest of the year.

Yahoo! was the first suitor for the troubled site, offering $5.5bn to $6bn, but Excite went to the @Home Network for at least $6.5bn in January 1999.

Later that year, the website made what was probably the worst business decision of the internet industry to date: two grad students from Stanford named Sergey Brin and Larry Page came to Excite CEO George Bell with a search engine they'd developed that was apparently taking up too much of their time to run when they should have been studying.

Bell could have snapped up Google for $1m but refused, and refused again when one of Excite's venture capitalists managed to negotiate Brin and Page down to $750,000. Just as a reminder, Google is worth at least $220bn today.

Excite continued as a division under the newly named Excite@Home group, and kept up its voracious appetite by eating online shopping site iMall, Blue Mountain Arts, the online card company, and Webshots, a photo sharing firm. But nothing the portal did could save it, with its ad revenues plummeting and its stock value down 90 per cent in 2000, Bell announced his plans to step down as chief.

Excite frantically raised capital, but the writing was on the wall. In September 2001, it sold off Blue Mountain Arts for less than five per cent of what it paid for it and the following month Excite filed for bankruptcy. Bits and pieces of the conglomerate were sold off before iWon.com made a joint bid with InfoSpace for the domain name and brand. iWon changed its name to the Excite Network and continued to operate the site as a portal. It let InfoSpace have the search part of the site.

In 2004, Ask Jeeves acquired the Excite Network and the following year struck a deal with InfoSpace to share the costs and income from Excite search, which is still around today.

Two of Excite's founders, Graham Spencer and Joe Kraus, went on to found Jotspot, which made technology to let users collaborate on shared documents. Jotspot was acquired by Google in 2006 and both Spencer and Kraus work at Google Ventures. Google is also home to Excite co-founder Ben Lutch, who is an engineering director for the firm.

Another co-founder Ryan McIntyre built up early-stage venture-capital firm Foundry Group after a stint at Mobius Venture Capital.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Ask Jeeves

More from The Register

next story
That dreaded syncing feeling: Will Microsoft EVER fix OneDrive?
Microsoft's long history of broken Windows sync
Mozilla, EFF, Cisco back free-as-in-FREE-BEER SSL cert authority
Let’s Encrypt to give HTTPS-everywhere a boost in 2015
SLURP! Flick your TONGUE around our LOLLIPOP – Google
Android 5 is coming – IF you're lucky enough to have the right gadget
Nokia's N1 fondleslab's HIDDEN BRILLIANCE: The 'Z Launcher'
Sugarcoating Android's Lollipop makes tab easier to swallow
Bug fixes! Get your APPLE BUG FIXES! iOS and OS X updates right here!
Yosemite fixes Wi-Fi hiccup, older iOS devices get performance boost
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
Meet Windows 10's new UI for OneDrive – also known as File Explorer
New preview build continues Redmond's retreat to the desktop
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.