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History Of AOL Search
In preparation for those trying AOL tomorrow as part of our first
I thought it would be helpful to give some background on AOL in search. AOL has long offered search — and even owned several web crawling
technologies — over the years. Don’t forget to read
AOL: Tomorrow’s Google
Free Friday Alternative for tips to what services to use from AOL in your
- November 1996: AOL
announces deal to sell WebCrawler to Excite (which itself later
gets sold to Infospace in 2001).
- March 1997: The deal to sell WebCrawler
closes. AOL also
launches its own
branded search engine, NetFind (formerly at
http://www.aol.com/netfind/, for nostalgia folks). The service was simply
the Excite search engine with an AOL look-and-feel.
- January 1998: AOL
purchases enterprise search company PLS, uses the technology in various
ways internally but never continues as an enterprise search player.
- November 1998: AOL
announced a deal to
purchase Netscape, which gave it the
Netscape-owned Open Directory Project as part
of the purchase. At the time, the Open Directory was the major human-powered
search engine that rivaled Yahoo and powered results for many services. It has
greatly diminished in stature since then, in no small part due to AOL’s
neglect and lack of support for the system.
- August 1999: AOL
Excite as a partner and shifts over to being powered by Inktomi’s crawler,
- October 1999: AOL does
relaunch of its search engine and renames it
AOL Search (originally at
http://search.aol.com while the
http://aolsearch.com address is never
promoted despite a domain dispute over it that AOL
won). The relaunch saw
those searching getting served first matches found by AOL editors, then
results drawn from the Open Directory, with Inktomi’s crawler-based results
kicking in only if the first two tiers failed to have answers.
- September 2000: AOL
cut a deal with the then GoTo (later Overture, later
Yahoo Search Marketing) to
carry paid search listings.
- October 2001: AOL
tiers results so that Open Directory results come first, then Inktomi results
come second. As a result, more of Inktomi’s crawler-based content becomes
visible for more queries.
January 2002, the Open Directory results disappear altogether, other than
- May 2002:
waves as Google wins AOL’s paid search listings
from Overture and also
that Inktomi will go in August. That
turning AOL largely into Google with an AOL look-and-feel, though it still
offers some editorial enhancements.
- October 2003: AOL
its agreement with Google.
- November 2003: AOL
the Singingfish multimedia search engine (which later closes) plus makes
content from it visible through a new Audio/Video tab that’s
a general relaunch for AOL Search.
- September 2004: AOL
inStore (later AOL Shopping), a
shopping service that also offered at
Pinpoint Shopping and that’s
integrated into AOL Search. Shopping results come from
- January 2005: AOL
AOL Search, offering
Snapshots, short units providing direct answers and information in its search
results, that had been in
testing since the
previous November. A SmartBox to suggest search queries is
Local search results powered by FAST
are promised (and
as AOL Local, combining AOL Yellow Pages,
CityGuide and MapQuest), and a desktop search tool powered by
Copernic is announced.
- March 2005: AOL
Pinpoint Travel site, powered
deal with Kayak.
- December 2005: AOL and
agree to renew their deal. Google later purchases 5 percent of AOL as part
of the agreement.
- January 2006: AOL
the Truveo video search site, which
gathers content by crawling the web.
- June 2006: Netscape is
relaunched as a
social news site.
- July 2006: The AOL
Podcasts Search area is
powered by Podscope, following an agreement
- August 2006: AOL
researchers (two are fired
search query data that they believe will be anonymous, but it quickly turns
out that by looking through the records, individual can be guessed at. A
privacy storm erupts.
One person is illustrated in a front page
New York Times story. AOL also
a new version AOL Video using both
Singingfish and Truveo, plus offering content from partners.
- October 2006: AOL
AOL Search with a feature called FullView, designed to make content from
vertical search listings (such as multimedia or local listings) appear
alongside web search results.
- April 2007: AOL
Marketplace, a way for advertisers to buy search ads directly from AOL,
rather than having to go through Google. Google ads also continue to be shown.
AOL also continues to carry pay-per-call ads through a April 2005
Ingenio. In May, it also
Third Screen Media, a mobile ad
- July 2007: AOL
Video, this time primarily using Truveo and content provided by partnerships.
Singingfish is gone — indeed, the Singingfish site was closed in February
2007 and redirected
to AOL Video. Truveo itself remains running, powering search not just at AOL
but also with other partners, with a number of new ones
named in June.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.