A couple months ago Andrew Allerman wrote a piece on the acquisition of the GoTo.com domain by a group of previous employees and I couldn’t resist trying to find out what they paid for the domain.
Anyone who has been around long enough in this industry can remember the influence GoTo.com had on search.
Founded in 1998 by IdeaLab, GoTo.com was an early search pioneer and invented a new way to connect businesses and consumers that we now recognize as sponsored search. Yes, they invented sponsored search and even coined the phrase “paid introductions” for CPC ads.
Much like BINGO is part of our grandparent’s vocabulary (or Thomas the Tank Engine is to my son) both GoTo and Overture were key words in my every day discussion with people who knew about domains.
Even after Yahoo’s acquisition of Overture in 2003 the GoTo/Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool and Keyword Score continued to be part of everyday life. Whether it was buying PPC ads or researching domain opportunities the amount of wealth created from these tools has to be several billion dollars I would imagine and anybody who bought domains in the first 13 years owes a debt of gratitude to IdeaLab for making this data public.
Then June 30, 2008 happened and these tools disappeared.
Fast forward to today and Google is slowly privatizing all keyword analytics data, still providing strings of the same “exact match” numbers – like 9,900 or 5,400 or 1,800 – making the data much less predictable than the Overture score and paid data models are popping up everywhere.
When you stop and think about it we had a wealth of information for free and many of today’s portfolios would have never been built without the help of GoTo/Overture.
Some things become cooler with age and as part of the “search” generation the GoTo brand is simply iconic to me, as much as a Commodore 64 would be to an Apple freak, William Shatner is to a Trekkie or as important selfies are to Justin Beiber.
Recently, several former GoTo executives purchased the domain, Joshua Metzger among them. I reached out to Josh and he fielded a few of our questions.
Q. How did you manage to acquire the GoTo.com domain name?
A. Some of us who trace our professional roots back to the early days of GoTo have kept abreast of the domain since it was more or less retired in 2001, when the company became Overture Services and changed its business model from B2C to B2B. You’ll recall that Overture was acquired in 2003 by Yahoo. Last year, a fairly benign inquiry to the domain’s owner suggested it might be available and a few of us joined together to acquire it late in 2013.
Q. Did you use a domain broker or privately acquire the domain?
A. It was a private deal.
Q. What are your plans for the GoTo.com domain and brand?
A. We’re doing a fair amount of experimentation and testing in the area of search – let’s call it enhanced search – and it’s likely we’ll continue to do that for a while. You can check it out at the website, which has been resurrected as a simple search engine with the look and feel of the old GoTo.com. And, by all means, we’d welcome feedback. You can leave comments by clicking on the “About GoTo” tab.
Q. When can we expect GoTo.com to start ruling search again?
A. You have a good sense of humor.
Q. How cool did you become with your friends after you owned the domain?
A. Our friends have always thought we’re cool – that’s why they’re our friends. :–)
Q. Any last words to GoTo fans?
A. Keep searching.
As you can tell my career for the New York Times is limited but this is a shining example of how even some of the best domains just may be for sale.