Magazine article Online

Dead Search Engines: The URLs That Used to Lead to a Unique Database with Unique Search Features and Capabilities May or May Not Still Do So. (on the Net)

Magazine article Online

Dead Search Engines: The URLs That Used to Lead to a Unique Database with Unique Search Features and Capabilities May or May Not Still Do So. (on the Net)

Article excerpt

After several years of unbridled growth and investment, the Net has seen a shakeout over the past 2 years. The Internet search engines that started off as research projects or simple attempts to ease the finding of information on the Internet evolved into the behemoths of the new economy. But with the sudden interest in Silicon Valley, inexplicable to some, of running a company to actually make money rather than simply attract more venture financing, the search engines stumbled upon hard times.

There have been major and significant changes in the search engine industry over the past few years, with surprising announcements almost every month. While most of the search engines' domains remain active, the actual state of the search engines is quite different. The URLs that used to lead to a unique database with unique search features and capabilities may or may not still do so.

And like so many aspects of the Internet, the death of a search engine is no simple matter. It can come in a variety of styles. Indeed, most of the original search engine URLs remain, and with some kind of a search box on the page. Many of our organizations continue to maintain Web pages with links to search engines. Which ones should we still link to and which have really died? It helps to understand how search engines die and which are left standing.


In some ways, all the old search engines are still with us. The nature of the Internet and its URLs leads to a strange life after death for many search engines. At a minimal level, any moderately popular search engine URL is unlikely to die. Someone will want the traffic that the old URL will bring in.

So what happens to the old URL? It can simply be redirected. This is the case with the old SavvySearch metasearch engine. Bought out by CNET, the old simply redirects to CNET's site. It is an instantaneous redirect, at least on a fast Internet connect.

Alternatively the old URL can remain as a separate destination, even branded with the old logo. Yet the underlying database and search technology may well be completely different. This is what happened with WebCrawler. Originally a completely separate and popular search engine, it was bought by Excite years ago. For several years, Excite continued to maintain WebCrawler as a separate search engine. WebCrawler had its own spider and its own search features. Then, last year, Excite suddenly changed it to the Excite database. It was still labeled as WebCrawler, with the WebCrawler logo at the WebCrawler URL, but the original WebCrawler search engine was dead.

A few search engines have completely died. Inference Find, a well-respected metasearch engine, used to be located at, a URL which now results in an "address not found" (404) error message. The company shut the site down because it could not find a way to make enough money to support it. Contentville also died and shut down its URL. Although both of these URLs are currently dead, some other company could pick up the domain names in the future and resurrect the address. But beware: Once the domain is bought by a new owner, any kind of content could be placed at those URLs, either related to the older search engine or not.


The most common way for a search engine to extend its life, at least as a specific Web site, is to give up its own database and search system in place of someone else's. The most common candidate is one that pays. An example is Overture. Formerly known as GoTo, Overture is a pay-for-positioning search engine. Advertisers can bid a certain amount for specific keywords and have their site appear above sites that bid lower or not at all.

One way to think of Overture is as a search engine with two distinct databases. The first is the paid links; those pages for which the site owner has agreed to pay a certain amount for every click through. …

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