Yahoo Acquisitions – The Middle Years

This is the third post in a series about the companies that Yahoo! has purchased.

I started with a look at the most recent with Yahoo! Acquisitions since Overture. Sometime after I made that post, we discovered that Yahoo! had also acquired a company named Webjay during 2005.

My second post looked at Early Yahoo! Acquisitions (the 1990s). While looking for those, I was amazed by the very large number of companies that Yahoo! partnered with for one reason or another.

This post includes some of Yahoo!’s acquisitions which probably have had the biggest impact on the search results and the advertisements that Yahoo! serves.

Dotbank

Dotbank (March 2000) A San Francisco based startup which owned arthas.com, and enabled people to make payments of under $ 500.00 to each other online.

The Yahoo! Press Release describing the acquisition is: Yahoo! Plans to Offer Person-to-Person Payment Solution to Buyers and Sellers

This became Yahoo Pay Direct (a paypal competitor) which is now dead. A 2004 statement on WHIR news cited a lack of users as the reason for the cancellation of the service.

One of the folks who came to Yahoo! through this transaction is Ivan Liu, who was part of a team working on a patent application for Yahoo! involving electronic money transactions. There have been three versions of this application published. Here are some details about the latest one filed, and links to the other two:

Systems and methods for implementing person-to-person money exchange
Inventors: Paul Gallagher, Steve Davis, Kaycie Roberts, Robert Simon, Michael Baum, Mieko Schmandt, Peihuan Meng, Ivan Liu, Jorge Noa, and Martin Hampton
Assigned to Yahoo!
Published May 19, 2005
Filed December 22, 2004

Abstract:

Systems and methods for effecting online financial transactions between individuals or between individuals and entities such as banks, merchants and other companies.

Each user accesses a fund exchange server to establish an online account, which is used to transfer funds to and from other entities’ online accounts.

To fund an online account, funds can be transferred to the online account from a credit card account or from another online account.

To withdraw funds, money can be transferred to a credit card account or other bank account.

Any user may initiate a send money transaction or a request payment transaction with any other entity provided that entity has an e-mail address.

For a send money transaction, the user sending money (payor) enters an amount of funds to be transferred and an e-mail address of the recipient of the funds (payee).

The system sends an e-mail message to the payee at the address provided indicating that the amount of funds has been “received” on the payee’s behalf.

The payee must then either open an online account or identify an existing online account to complete the transaction.

For a request money transaction, a user enters an amount of funds owed and an e-mail address for the recipient of the payment request (payor), and the system sends a payment request to the payor via e-mail at the provided address.

If the payor accepts the payment request, the payor identifies an online account from which to transfer funds to the payee (initiator of the payment request).

If the payor does not have an online account established, the payor must sign up for an online account and provide a credit card number to fund the online account.

Thereafter, the amount of funds are transferred to the payee and the system sends an e-mail notification to the payee indicating that the funds have been “received” on the payee’s behalf.

In both cases, to complete a transaction, the payee must direct the received funds to an online account, for example, by providing an online account number and/or other identifying information such as a password.

The payor may cancel the transaction at any time until the payee directs the received funds to an online account.

Systems and methods for implementing person-to-person money exchange
Published June 16, 2005
Filed October 8, 2004

Systems and methods for implementing person-to-person money exchange
Published June 10, 2004
Filed December 2, 2003

Vivasmart

VivaSmart (June 2000) Founded by two Stanford students, Thai Tran and Ama Awallah.

Spurred by the memory of someone complaining at the University bookstore, Thai Tran started Booksmart as a senior project, while at Stanford, that compared the costs of textbooks offered by online services against the prices offered at the Stanford bookstore. Ama Awallah may have also been involved in booksmart, but he definitely was involved in a followup site vivasmart, which expanded beyond books to create a central marketplace for other goods available in the Stanford area, and which allowed people to compare used prices to commercially available ones.

People from other campuses asked to have a similar service, and the initial expansion started at Princeton and Penn State, and then to other schools. Their ecommerce engine was syndicated to sites such as epinions.

Thai Tran has been involved in the development of Yahoo! Local, Travel, and Shortcuts, and his name is on the following patent applications from Yahoo!, which were filed and published a fair amount of time after the acquisition of the company that he co-founded.

Mapping method and system

Abstract:

A method includes:

receiving a query from a user,

generating a map in response to the query,

identifying items within an area covered by the map,

displaying interactive icons on the map at locations corresponding to the locations of the items,

displaying a textual list of the items displayed on the map,

enabling a user to select at least one item from the textual list for continued display; and

displaying the at least one selected item on the map simultaneously while displaying items found by a subsequent query, regardless of whether the at least one selected item satisfies a search criterion used in the subsequent query.

Delivering items based on links to resources associated with search results

Abstract:

Techniques are described for delivering search results pages to the users of a search engine, where one or more search result listings on the search results pages include one or more items that are associated with links to resources that satisfy a related search and that satisfy a specified condition.

The items that are delivered with the search results may be associated with a party that is different than the party that controls the resource to which the link is associated, and may be delivered such that any item that is displayed based on the item’s association with a link to a resource is displayed in a frame of display that is different than a frame of the display in which the link to which the item is associated is displayed.

Search system using search subdomain and hints to subdomains in search query statements and sponsored results on a subdomain-by-subdomain basis

Abstract:

A method and apparatus for generating search results including searching by subdomain and providing sponsored results by subdomain is provided.

A search system according to embodiments of the present invention analyzes search queries to determine if they are to be routed to subdomains and presents results include sponsored hits sponsored on a subdomain by subdomain basis.

eGroups

eGroups (August 2000) Electronic email-based discusson boards, centered around many different topics.

This is one of the acquistions from Yahoo! that I remember quite well. At the time, I was a moderator on a couple of Yahoo! Clubs. One on Web Site Promotion, and another on Small Business. The Yahoo! Clubs were changed into Yahoo! Groups, and more advertising was thrown into the mix. This transition inspired a move for one of the clubs away from Yahoo! onto its own web site, where it has thrived as Cre8asite Forums.

The eGroups press release on the acquisition shows a few reasons why it was such an attractive purchase. At the time of the sale, eGroups had 900,000 groups with more than 18 million members. As this news.com article notes, the strategy was to deliver a lot of eyeballs to advertisements.

A Clickz article at the time, Yahoo! eGroups Does an About Face on Ad Policy, discussed how delicate a strategy that might be, but also mentioned that egroups was sending out more than 2 billion emails monthly just prior to the move to Yahoo!

ONEList, Inc.

ONEList, Inc. (November 1999) a merger between eGroups and ONEList happened in 1999, prior to Yahoo!’s purchase of eGroups. ONEList allowed for the creation and promotion of email based communities, and the two groups were the leaders on the web in that area.

These days, it might not seem like anything novel, but as mentioned on the archived ONEList site:

ONElist is a free e-mail community service where you can start and manage new communities, subscribe to existing communities and view archives of old messages.

Between eGroups and ONEList, there were a lot of organizations and communities getting together to share information amongst themselves, and these services were priceless.

The founder of ONEList was Mark Fletcher, whom you may recognize as the founder of Blog Lines.

Kimo.com iMedia Inc.

Kimo.com iMedia Inc. (November 2000) At the time of sale, Kimo was the most popular portal site in Taiwan, with more than 25 million page views a day, and more than 4 million members. Now it has been folded into Yahoo Taiwan.

I thought that the following Chinese Taipei Summary of the transaction was interesting as it points out a great amount of common visitors between the two sites at the time of the purchase:

Both of the merging enterprises are major Internet portals in Chinese Taipei. Survey findings reveal an 85 % overlap between the user populations of the Taiwan’s Yahoo.com and Kimo.com portals, i.e. 85 percent of visitors browsing the Taiwan Yahoo.com website also browse Kimo.com.

Internet usage and the Internet advertising market in Chinese Taipei still have considerable room for development. The merger thus should not have a direct impact on centralization in the relevant markets or on portal composition in Chinese Taipei. If other conditions remaining unchanged, the merger should not significantly alter the competition in the market and is highly unlikely to restrain competition.

Instead, the merger will be a catalyst in the improvement of overall quality of Internet services in Chinese Taipei, causing growth in the Internet user population and creating increased market demand. In totality, it should be conducive to the development of the Internet in Chinese Taipei by stimulating benign competi tion among Internet enterprises.

Sold.com.au

Sold.com.au (April 2001) An Australian auction site, purchased to enable Yahoo! to compete against eBay in the Australian market.

In an announcement made in August of 2003, Yahoo! closed down its Australian auction site. See: Yahoo to shutter Australian auction site

Interestingly, if you go to the sold.com.au help pages, which include a “powered by Yahoo!” image, and click on the Sold.com.au logo on top of the page, you are sent to the Australian eBay front page. Typing the address directly into a browser address bar also brings your to the eBay site. What happened? Well, it appears that Yahoo! and eBay are working together, under a multiple year agreement to offer auction services in Australia, under the eBay name. See the Yahoo! Australia & NZ press release.

Sold.com.au was a joint venture between two groups. One was John Fairfax Holdings Limited, which is the publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Age, The Sun Herald, and BRW. The other was auctions.com.

Launch Media Inc.

Launch Media Inc. (June 2001) Delivered Streaming audio, music videos, concert listings, music chat services, album reviews, and editorial content on music, to the web.

Yahoo! Press Release: Yahoo! to Acquire Launch Media, Inc.

The Yahoo! Music site no longer has the Launch name upon it.

Hotjobs, Inc.

HotJobs (February 2002) A leading jobs search site, they were exploring a merger with Monster.com when Yahoo! came up with an unsolicited bid for more money.

This was an acquisition that Yahoo! seemed happy to announce to the world, with a number of press releases about it:

Hot Jobs Announces First of Strategic Agreements to Increase Reach of Internet recruiting Web Site

Yahoo! to Acquire Hotjobs

Yahoo! and Hotjobs Announce Completion of Merger

This is another purchase that still retains the strong brand name of the company acquired, known now as Yahoo! HotJobs.

A patent application with Hotjobs President Richard Johnson’s name on it, illustrates the process described in the patent using an example of Hotjobs, which he notes in the application is “the commercial service mark associated with the present invention.”

Richard Johnson had resigned as the CEO of Hotjobs in March of 2001 to focus upon agencyexchange.com, which focused on working with employment agencies instead of consumers. A Clickz article, Yahoo! Locks In HotJobs Deal, discusses the optimism over that service.

When it announced the AgencyExchange.com offering last December, HotJobs said it would charge headhunters a $700 per month membership fee to use its searchable directory of corporate candidates.

At the time, a company official called the market for the service “enormous” and noted that rival recruiting site Monster.com takes in about 40 percent of its total revenues from service contracts to professional staffing firms. Within three years, HotJobs was expecting to hit $80 million in revenues on headhunting services alone.

This patent application seems to fit in with that service.

System and method for agency based posting and searching for job openings via a computer system and network
United States Patent Application 20020133369
Inventor Richard S. Johnson
Filed November 5, 2001
Published September 19, 2002

Abstract:

System and Method For Agency Based Posting and Searching For Job Openings Via a Computer System and Network for use by placement agents who normally would not have access to files in a career bulletin board.

The system gives placement agents the opportunity to interact directly with corporate recruiters who are members of the system.

Communication between the placement agent and the corporate member is permitted only if so designated by the corporate member.

Utilities for the corporate member allow jobs to be defined, stored, and conveyed to preferred placement agents.

Utilities for placement agents permit candidates to be registered, candidate profiles to be created, and sent to the corporate member who is the client of the placement agent.

Cadê?

Cadê? (January 2002) Now at http://cade.search.yahoo.com/, this site has been one of the most popular search sites in the world, and is well respected for the quality of its results.

Interesting that there is still an active Cadê? site, as well as Yahoo! Brasil

Portuguese for “where is,” Cadê? was launched in September of 1995 by Fábio de Oliveira and Gustavo Viberti, who had worked together at Brazilian offices of Unisys before starting Cadê?

Sites were entered into Cadê? by specialized professionals who visited sites before entering them, and determined descriptions and categories for those sites. See: Conheça o Cadê?.

According to the Portuguese wikipedia entry on Cadê? (and verified by a few other sources), in April of 1999, Fábio de Oliveira and Gustavo Viberti sold the company to StarMedia Network, and they continued to work there until April of 2000.

Inktomi

Inktomi (December 2002) Founded in 1996, Inktomi provided software for Internet service providers, including Web search. They also worked upon pay-for-inclusion technology. The name of the company is a reference to a mythical Lakotan Indian spider. Inktomi didn’t develop a commercial search engine of their own, but rather created spidering and indexing services that others could use.

A nice article here on the company’s origins and business model: On the Net: The Many Faces of Inktomi

Danny Sullivan covers this acquisition pretty well in Yahoo To Buy Inktomi.

A couple of Yahoo! press releases on this subject, including an early one where Yahoo! describes using Inktomi results, and then the one about the purchase:

Yahoo! Selects Inktomi as its Default World Wide Web Search Engine Partner
Yahoo! and Inktomi Announce Completion of Acquisition

There are a few Patents from Inktomi. Here are the ones that are specifically assigned to them in the US Patent and Trademarks database:

High performance object cache
Granted October 3, 2000

Consistent data storage in an object cache
Granted October 3, 2000

Garbage collection in an object cache
Granted March 27, 2001

Delivering alternate versions of objects from an object cache
Granted September 11, 2001

Alias-free content-indexed object cache
Granted September 18, 2001

Self-tuning dataflow I/O core
Granted October 23, 2001

Method and apparatus for retrieving documents based on information other than document content
Granted March 19, 2002

Method and apparatus for identifying spoof documents
Granted August 27, 2002

Maintaining counters for high performance object cache
Granted September 17, 2002

Delivering non-default items in association with search results
Granted May 13, 2003

Managing changes to a directory of electronic documents
Granted January 6, 2004

Adaptive traffic bypassing in an intercepting network driver
Granted February 3, 2004

Delivering non-default items in association with search results
Granted March 23, 2004

Self-tuning dataflow I/O core
Granted January 25, 2005

High performance object cache
Granted July 5, 2005

Managing changes to a directory of electronic documents
Granted September 6, 2005

There are no pending patent applications listed that are presently assigned to Inktomi. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any, but it does mean that they may be a little difficult to find.

Overture Services, Inc.

Overture (October 2003) This company was originally known as Goto.com, and was started in 1998. As Goto, it was a search engine using a cost-per-click advertising model. It transformed itself into a provider of paid listings on other search engines.

Again, Danny Sullivan provides a very nice recap of what this purchase meant, at: Yahoo To Buy Overture.

Goto.com patent:

System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine

It appears that this has been refiled a few times since it was granted on July 31, 2001, as a new patent application. I talked about the latest to be published here: A Goto.com Time Capsule: Looking at a Four Year Old Vision of Paid Search.

Here are patents that have been specifically assigned to Overture:

Method for identifying related pages in a hyperlinked database
Granted December 16, 2003

Web page connectivity server construction
Granted March 2, 2004

Method and system for generating a set of search terms
Granted March 9, 2004

System and method for rapid completion of data processing tasks distributed on a network
Granted August 10, 2004

Search engine for selecting targeted messages
Granted August 17, 2004

Technique for locating an item of interest within a stored representation of data
Granted September 28, 2004

System and method allowing advertisers to manage search listings in a pay for placement search system using grouping
Granted November 30, 2004

Method and apparatus for ranking web page search results
Granted March 22, 2005

Method and apparatus for indentifying related searches in a database search system
Granted April 5, 2005

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Granted June 14, 2005

Systems and methods for interactive search query refinement
Granted September 20, 2005

System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine
Granted December 20, 2005

System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine
Granted January 3, 2006

Automated processing of appropriateness determination of content for search listings in wide area network searches
Granted January 3, 2006

These are patent applications presently pending from Overture Services, which have the company’s name on them as the assignee:

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Filed February 14, 2003
Published August 7, 2003

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Filed February 14, 2003
Published August 7, 2003

Information retrieval system and method employing spatially selective features
Filed October 9, 2002
Published April 15, 2004

Online media exchange
Filed November 22, 2002
Published May 27, 2004

Method and system for generating a set of search terms
Filed March 5, 2004
Published November 18, 2004

Technique for ranking records of a database
Filed April 20, 2004
Published December 2, 2004

System and method allowing advertisers to manage search listings in a pay for placement search system using grouping
Filed June 8, 2004
Published December 23, 2004

Technique for processing data in a network
Filed September 8, 2004
Published February 24, 2005

Search engine for selecting targeted messages
Filed May 6, 2004
Published March 24, 2005

System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine
Filed April 1, 2005
Published October 6, 2005

System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network
Filed May 11, 2005
Published January 5, 2006

Altavista

Altavista (April 2003) Search engine focusing on algorithmic search. I remember when Altavista first started serving search results. A friend’s sister worked for the company at the time, and she had sent him an email with a link to the site. It was pretty impressive, and was the King of search for a while.

Patents that have been assigned to Altavista

Method for ranking documents in a hyperlinked environment using connectivity and selective content analysis
Granted August 29, 2000

Method for identifying near duplicate pages in a hyperlinked database
Granted October 24, 2000

Technique for storing data information within a network
Granted April 17, 2001

Method for determining the resemining the resemblance of documents
Granted May 8, 2001

Method for indexing duplicate records of information of a database
Granted May 8, 2001

Technique for indexing data in a network
Granted July 24, 2001

Technique for processing data
Granted August 14, 2001

Technique for matching a query to a portion of media
Granted October 30, 2001

Technique for ranking records of a database
Granted November 13, 2001

Method and apparatus for preventing topic drift in queries in hyperlinked environments
Granted November 20, 2001

System and method for enforcing politeness while scheduling downloads in a web crawler
Granted November 20, 2001

Technique for annotating media
Granted December 18, 2001

Method for clustering closely resembling data objects
Granted February 19, 2002

Web page connectivity server
Granted July 22, 2003

Technique for organizing data information in a network
Granted March 9, 2004

Method for search engine generating supplemented search not included in conventional search result identifying entity data related to portion of located web page
Granted May 11, 2004

Patent applications assigned to Altavista:

Technique for locating an item of interest within a stored representation of data
Filed March 22, 2001
Published December 13, 2001

Technique for deleting duplicate records referenced in an index of a database
Filed August 3, 2001
Published April 25, 2002

Method and apparatus for ranking web page search results
Filed May 6, 2003
Published June 10, 2004

It was a surprise when Overture bought Altavista, but Altavista’s better days seemed behind them at that point. It was even more of a surprise a week later when Overture added their next acquisition.

Alltheweb, FAST web search, Fast Partnersite Products (via Overture)

Alltheweb, FAST Web Search, Fast Partnersite Products (April 2003) Overture acquired some of Fast Search and Transfer’s assets, focusing upon their Internet business units – FAST Web Search, AlltheWeb.com, and FAST PartnerSite paid inclusion services. They also acquired the related intellectual property rights, data centers and equipment in Sacramento, California and London. Personnel from those parts of the company also went to Yahoo!

The combination seemed like a good one, as described in this statement from the Overture press release:

Algorithmic search, in which a search engine crawls the Web and returns relevant results in response to users’ queries, complements Overture’s core paid placement business. By leveraging the algorithmic Web search technology of both FAST and AltaVista, the company will be able to provide three types of search offerings to its current and prospective distribution affiliates: Overture’s paid placement product, a paid inclusion product and algorithmic search.

Here are a couple of patents assigned to FAST that sound like they may have been part of the acquisition:

Search system and method for retrieval of data, and the use thereof in a search engine
Granted April 23, 2002

Processing circuit and a search processor circuit
Granted July 1, 2003

Games Domain and dotmusic

Games Domain and dotmusic (October 2003) Games, and music, respectively. These companies were purchased from British Telecommunications plc (BT), and intended for Yahoo! UK and Ireland.

The purchase came after BT had bundled that content for use by Yahoo! along with some other content, earlier in the year.

Dotmusic was purchased by BT in March of 2002. Later that year it offered a music download service with Peter Gabriel’s OD2 music distribution company.

Games Domain was purchased by BT in October 2001, from theglobe.com.

What’s next for Yahoo!?

Yahoo! has been pretty busy in their decade on the web. What will they buy next? I’ve seen a lot of speculation recently. I’ll probably spend a little time going over my three posts on Yahoo!’s acqusitions, and post a recap with some predictions. If you have any of your own, please feel free to share them. Thanks.

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4 thoughts on “Yahoo Acquisitions – The Middle Years”

  1. Hi Nadir.

    I’m doing well. Thanks.

    I’m glad that I went through looking at all of these acquisitions. It helped put Yahoo!’s background into a better perspective for me.

    Altavista was very popular in the days before Google, with very good reason. The folks working for them were very bright, and the methods they came up with at the time were innovative. The patents I listed above, from people like Monika Henzinger and Andrei Broder, are worth looking through. Great stuff.

  2. Hi Bill,
    How are you?
    I was pretty sure AllTheweb was owned by Yahoo but never really tried to get a confirmation, so thanks for the post.

    Regarding Altavista, I remember when I used to live in France, it was very popular, especially amongst the webmasters and Internet-savvy people, even last year I was using it at the University when I needed relevant documentation. I think it is one of the most innovative search engine initially created.

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