March 12, 2001 2:35 PM PST

Disney reinvents Go.com with help of rival

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Walt Disney has quietly reworked its failed Web portal Go.com a second time and has replaced the site's core search engine with that of rival GoTo.com, the latest in a series of divestment moves by Disney.

The entertainment giant said in January that it would shut down Go.com's Sunnyvale, Calif., offices and step out of the Web portal race. Instead, it has reinvented the site as a gateway to its other Web properties. Disney said it would likely dissolve or sell Infoseek, the search engine it acquired as a foundation for creating Go.com.

Now Go.com's search results are provided by GoTo.com, a company that once sued Disney. Infoseek no longer exists as a brand on the Web.

"It's gone, as far as (Go.com) is concerned," Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said about the Infoseek brand.

She would not disclose how much GoTo.com paid to become Go.com's search provider.

Bergman added that Go.com will remain in its present gateway form for an indefinite period. Despite the closure of its headquarters, the site will continue to be programmed. But instead of offering new content, the redesigned Go.com features direct links to Disney's family of sites--ABCNews.com, ESPN.com, Disney.com, Movies.com and the auction site Disney has created with the help of eBay.

Separately, Disney announced a deal to include links to its content sites on the subscriber Web portal for ISP EarthLink. ABCNews.com and ESPN.com will get preferred placement on the site's news and sports areas. Other sites--including ABC.com, Disney.com, ESPN Fantasy Games, Family.com, WallofSound.com, DisneyVacations.com, and Disney's Blast Service--will be available on the site as well.

Go.com was Disney's most aggressive effort to compete with Web portals such as Yahoo, Excite.com and Lycos. Disney combined its stake in Infoseek and its ownership in Web-development subsidiary Starwave to launch Go.com in January 1999.

The idea was to create a separately traded company that would offer common portal features, such as free e-mail and Web search, with content from Disney-owned media properties such as ABC and ESPN.

Just a year later, Disney executives threw in the towel. They said Go.com would shift its efforts from being a general Web portal to becoming a site focusing on "entertainment and leisure."

Repositioning could not save the site. In January, Disney revealed that the cost involved in maintaining Go.com no longer made sense. The online-advertising market was crunching, and Go.com's place among Web portals remained questionable. Disney decided to focus on its core TV products instead of maintaining the newly branded site.

Further striking a blow, Disney revealed it would incur a noncash write-off of $790 million, or 37 cents a share, for intangible assets as well as between $25 million and $50 million in severance and fixed-asset costs.

The GoTo.com deal involves an unusual twist, since GoTo.com won an injunction barring Disney from using its original Go.com logo. GoTo.com alleged Disney had infringed on its trademark for marketing a logo similar to its own.

Bergman said the lawsuit had no effect on the deal.

 

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