Disney Goes to GoTo.com for Search Engine Technology

Mickey Mouse apparently does not hold a grudge.

In an ironic twist, the Walt Disney Co. in March quietly began using GoTo.com as the search engine technology behind its revamped Go.com Web site. With its move to GoTo.com, Disney ousted its Infoseek Corp. unit as its search engine technology.

Disney and GoTo.com, based in Pasadena, CA, were involved in protracted trademark litigation over their respective logos. Last May, Disney agreed to pay $21.5 million to settle the lawsuit and to stop using its Go Network logo, which featured a green traffic light similar to the one used by GoTo.com.

GoTo.com sued Disney in February 1999 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. In its complaint, GoTo.com explained that its logo “comprises the design of a green circle on a yellow background with the words GO and TO appearing in white in the center of the circle. The Go Network's logo comprises a green circle on a yellow background with the word GO appearing in white in the center and the word NETWORK appearing below the design.” GoTo.com noted that “even the font of the lettering used by Disney and Infoseek is nearly identical to the font in GoTo.com's logo.”

But Mickey Mouse may get the last laugh, as GoTo.com, a pay-for-performance search engine, will share advertising profits with Disney — which could amount to millions of dollars annually.

The revamped Go.com Web site is a shell of its former self. The site used to have content that was updated frequently, but now it only serves as a portal to Disney's other properties, such as ABCNews.com, ESPN.com and Disney.com.

In fact, Disney insists that Go.com is not a Web site, but rather just a page that links to the company's other properties.

“What you currently see is just a Web page that serves as a link to other sites in the Disney family,” said Susan Murdy, a spokeswoman for the Walt Disney Internet Group.

Murdy noted that the Go.com link exists to drive traffic to its other properties and that it is using GoTo.com to offer search capabilities to its visitors.

“Go.com no longer exists,” Murdy said. “People who come to the page can still have search inquiries achieved for them by GoTo.com.” She added that the link page will exist as long as the company's agreement with GoTo.com is in force. But she would not say how long that would be.

Disney said its new Go.com link is entirely automated, which means the site has no staff or content of its own. The company said the new Go.com site features an e-mail service and links and headlines for its other properties. Gone are the former Go.com's GO Translator, Free Home Pages and the Go.com Wireless site.

Neither Disney nor GoTo.com released terms of their agreement, but industry observers said the two companies will likely share millions in advertising profits. AOL Time Warner, for example, another client of GoTo.com, expects to make $60 million from a similar deal.

Neither Murdy nor James Olson, vice president of corporate communications at GoTo.com, would respond to questions about the irony of the deal.

GoTo.com makes the majority of its money from deals to put its search engine on Web sites. Advertisers bid for top spots in search return lists and pay a set amount for every click they get from Web searchers. In fourth quarter 2000, GoTo.com's advertisers paid an average of 17 cents per click for 228 million clicks.

GoTo.com was founded in 1997. Disney launched Go.com in 1998.

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