Lycos, Granddaddy Of Search Engines, Finds A New Home


Like a hand-me-down shoe, Lycos, one of the great grandaddys of all search engines, has been handed off to yet another company. Over the years, the innovative web browser that existed before there even was a web has been adopted by several families. The latest is in India, Ybrant Digital. Before this, Lycos called South Korea its home under the wing of Daum Communications.

Ybrant Digital - New owner of Lycos
New owner of Lycos comes from a rising Asian tiger, India.

A sliding sale price indicates Lycos? descent into the rag pile. Sold for more than $5.4 billion [with a B] nearly 10 years ago to Terra Networks of Telefónica, a large Spanish-Portuguese telecommunications company, it passed into the hands of Daum Communications of Seoul South Korea for $95.4 million [with an M]. This week, Lycos was acquired for $36 million, by the integrated digital marketing company, Ybrant Digital.

Ironically, Lycos Chief Strategy Officer Edward Noel told Market Watch that last year was the first time the company had been profitable. However, Wikipedia opines that in 1997, it became one of the first profitable Internet businesses in the world.

Lycos began life in 1994 and shortly thereafter went public on Nasdaq. It was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Machine Translation by a research team led by Dr. Michael L. Mauldin. It provided results ranked by relevance using an algorithm that considered prefix matching and word proximity. When founded, Lycos was unique in that it offered free, advertisement-supported Internet search and content, namely 54,000 documents, which increased quickly to more than 390,000 documents in its index, then 1.5 million, and again to more than 60 million documents. It lived up to its name, derived from the Latin lycosidea meaning wolf spider, a hunter that catches its prey by stalking and running after it instead of entrapping it in a web.

Archie Query - World's First Search EngineBefore Lycos and before the world wide web, there was Archie, the very first search engine. It was invented in 1990 by Alan Emtage a McGill University, Montreal student. It was a search engine for FTP sites, FTP [File Transfer Protocol] being the primary method of storing and retrieving files. Originally christened "Archives", the name was shortened to "Archie", the first to sound personable, followed many years later by another attempt to humanize search engine technology, Ask Jeeves. The History of Search Engines provides a concise overview of many others that have come and gone from the scene.

Mauldin, the creator of Lycos, describes its inception: "Work on the Lycos spider began in May 1994, using John Leavitt’s LongLegs program as a starting point. I added the Pursuit retrieval engine to allow user searching of the Lycos catalog." As 1996 ended, Lycos was the largest search engine.

DragonBall - The Very First Trending Search - Held the top spot for 200 consecutive weeks
Dragonball – The Very First Trending Search – Held the top spot for 200 consecutive weeks

Beginning in August 1999, a weekly list of the top 50 search terms out of 12 million queries was instituted. Dragonball, appeared on the list for 200 consecutive weeks. Many of the characters in the Dragonball universe relate to a character in real Chinese Mythology. In 2008, The Dark Knight [#2] became the highest ranking film to make the Lycos Top 50 after The Matrix Reloaded in 2003.

During its journey, Lycos has acquired, and sold off, Internet brands, such as Tripod, offering domains and the ability to build your own website; Gamesville where you can play Three Eyed Bingo; Wired Digital which was sold to Wired; Angelfire for free website hosting; advertised as a dating site for singles looking for love; and Raging Bull, a financial message board, now part of eSignal. Lycos broadened its services to include multiplayer games and video chat. Along the way, Lycos abandoned its own crawler and began using FAST to power its advanced search results. Today, Lycos takes its search results from Yahoo! that was once its competitor.

So goes the spoils of war. The Internet and its search engines continue to evolve, revolve, and continually re-invent themselves.