January 11, 1999 11:15 PM PST

Infoseek, Disney go to work

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Infoseek and Disney launched their much-anticipated Go Network in an uncertain effort to establish a new force in the portal arena.

The new site sports the look and feel of portal market rivals, but comes with original content drawn from Disney's Web properties--including ABC News, ESPN, Family.com, and Mr. Showbiz--as well as content restrictions against adult material and optional search filter software.

Upon its launch, Go Network becomes Portalopoly the fourth most-visited portal on the Web, Barak Berkowitz, Infoseek senior vice president and portal site general manager, previously told CNET News.com. Counting the 20 million visitors who overlap between Disney and Infoseek sites, he said, the network will reach an estimated 34 percent of all Web users.

Go is trying out a relatively new strategy among the portals, which until now have aggregated content from other sites while offering free email and other services. With the launch of the Go Network, Disney and Infoseek are embarking on a "destination site" strategy by presenting original material via familiar media brands intended to attract Web surfers and TV viewers alike. Executives touted this approach last week at the Digital Hollywood component of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Combining Disney and Infoseek properties, Go offers communities of like-minded users, chat rooms, free email, and home page builders. "Creeping personalization"--a term used by Infoseek chief executive Harry Motro at the Consumer Electronics Show--enables all other sites on the Go Network to recognize a user's choices on any given site.

Go Network also comes with Goguardian, a search filter that will not execute keyword searches that could return adult-oriented results. The filter, which must be turned on by users, has not placated civil liberties groups, which are arguing that the technology sometimes mistakenly blocks sites about safe sex and medical issues, for example.

Disney and Infoseek have been working on the Go Network since last June, when Disney agreed to buy 43 percent of Infoseek in exchange for $70 million in cash and its majority stake in Web site designer Starwave. A beta version launched in December.

But analysts suspect the portal business could be a tough one to crack, even for Disney. Shares of No. 1 Yahoo have zoomed above 400 largely on the basis of its blue-chip stature--gaining some 70 points yesterday in an admittedly remarkable session for Net stocks--Lycos has recently doubled, partly on speculation of an acquisition bid.

Conventional wisdom holds it will be hard for a newcomer to win market share, and so would-be Internet media companies--even if they are well-known on other media--have to consider an acquisition strategy. Last year, for example, NBC purchased a stake in Snap, which had been created and operated as a division of Internet media company CNET: The Computer Network.

NBC is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of News.com.

 

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