Excite

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Excite
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Excite

Excite is an Internet portal with an included search engine. It is one of the most recognized brands on the Internet. Excite belongs to the Ask Jeeves network. Excite offers a variety of services, including web-mail, stock quotes, and a customizable user homepage. The news and other content on the portal is provided by over 100 different providers.

Excite was founded as Architext in 1994 by Mark Van Haren, Ryan McIntyre, Ben Lutch, Joe Kraus, Graham Spencer, and Martin Reinfried. The founders were all students in computer science (except for Kraus, who was a political science major) at Stanford University. They managed to get a $4000 investment from Institutional Venture Partners to start the company. It took another year, until December 1995, to launch Excite on the web.

In 1996, the company bought two search engines, Magellan and WebCrawler, and went public with an initial offering of two million shares priced at $17 USD. It gained exclusive distribution agreements with companies such as Netscape, Microsoft and Apple Computer.

In 1999, Excite combined with high-speed Internet service @Home.com and became Excite@Home, but the $6.7 billion merger fell disastrously short of expectations. Among the problems, there was a culture clash between the people from Excite, who viewed themselves as pioneers in the New Economy, and the older, more traditional employees from @Home. The burst of the dot-com bubble in March of 2000 further limited the company's prospects. By 2001, there was tension among major investors and the company was starting to run out of cash.

As Excite@Home filed for bankruptcy in October of 2001, it seemed that one of the Internet's best known brands was destined to become just another chapter in the history of the dot-com bust. The Excite offices were virtually empty, and the site was in its death throws without anyone maintaining it. Some content was not updating, and features were broken.

But a small Irvington, NY based Internet company, iWon.com, had quietly started to build an entirely new but familiar Excite website hoping that they could acquire the Excite.com domain and brand in the bankruptcy proceedings. A few weeks later, the company made a $10 million (USD) joint bid with Infospace, a Seattle Internet company, to purchase the domain and brand, but no other technology assets or employees. On November 28, the court accepted the bid and gave iWon less than three weeks to launch a new Excite portal.

"I feel like a guy who lived through a hurricane, got pounded and pounded and managed to survive when everyone else was destroyed," Bill Daugherty, iWon's founder and co-chief executive at the time told The New York Times. "Suddenly you walk outside and because of the storm you have beachfront property. That's what Excite is to us."

On Sunday, December 16, 2001, iWon launched the new Excite and transferred millions of Excite users, along with their customized start pages, email accounts, and stock portfolios, to their new home. For its part in the acquisition, Infospace owned and operated the web search function on Excite, an arrangement that proved to be short sighted for iWon as search became a big business on the Internet in the years to follow.

iWon changed its corporate name to the Excite Network, and continued to operate Excite, in addition to iWon and a third portal, MyWay. Outside of the United States, Excite Italia took control of portals in Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Austria.

Excite continued to operate without many upgrades until the Excite Network was acquired by Ask Jeeves in March 2004. Ask Jeeves promised to rejuvenate iWon and Excite, but those upgrades didn't happen. Ask Jeeves management became distracted, according to the East Bay Business Times, first by a search feature arms race with Google and Yahoo, and then by its $1.85 billion merger with Barry Diller's InterActive Corporation, announced in March of 2005.

"Hopefully, as we start to invest more and get the staff in place and some of the changes to the portal properties that we want, we hope to see (revenue) grow back in the latter half of the year," said Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz during a conference call with analysts on April 27, 2005.

On May 20, 2005, Ask Jeeves made two announcements regarding steps towards bringing the Excite brand back together again.

In one announcement, Ask Jeeves said it had acquired Excite Italia B.V., the operator of Excite Europe, from Tiscali, S.p.A., giving the company ownership of Excite's Internet domains throughout Europe as well as control of existing portals in Spain, Italy, France, UK, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. This leaves Asia as the only region where the Excite brand is not owned by Ask Jeeves.

Ask Jeeves also announced a comprehensive settlement of litigation with Infospace involving Excite in the United States. Under the terms of the agreement, both Ask Jeeves and InfoSpace would share marketing costs and revenue from the Excite web search function. "We look forward to working with InfoSpace to enhance the search experience on Excite, now that our interests are aligned," said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Ask Jeeves.

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