Read a very interesting piece on Gizmodo about why Lycos failed in the search engine wars. I have some small amount of insider knowledge about Lycos, and everything he’s saying totally fits with what I know about the company and how they operate. It’s worth a read. I always find it fascinating that the wrong people in power, or the wrong balance of power between departments, can end up crippling a company that could have been revolutionary.
They still exist, by the way. Sometimes people are shocked to hear that. And I’m always shocked when someone’s never even heard of Lycos, which I’ve encountered as well. I definitely used Lycos back in the 90s, along with Altavista and Yahoo and Dogpile (remember when you had to use several search engines to get the result you were looking for?). They were the first to implement several things we take for granted now, like prefix matching and word proximity. Plus they had ads that I still remember (which makes sense, given that ad people basically ran the company):