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Type of site
VPN provider, former search engine
Available inEnglish
LaunchedMay 20, 1996; 24 years ago (1996-05-20)
Current statusActive

HotBot is a VPN provider and a former search engine.


HotBot was launched in May 1996 by HotWired, a tool providing search results served by the Inktomi database. The search engine was co-developed by Inktomi, a four-month-old start-up staffed by University of California, Berkeley students.[1] HotBot was launched using a "new links" strategy of marketing, claiming to index the entire web weekly, more often than competitors like AltaVista,[2] and its website stated it being the "most complete Web index online" with 54 million documents.[3] Its colorful interface and impressive features (e.g. being able to search with any entered words, or an entire phrase) drew acclaim and popularity.[4]

Directory results were provided originally by LookSmart and then DMOZ from mid-1999.[5] HotBot also used search data from Direct Hit Technologies for a period starting February 1999,[6] which was a tool that used click-through data to manipulate results. Inktomi's SmartCrawl technology, allowing 10 million webpages to be crawled weekly, was incorporated into HotBot in March 1997.[7] HotBot was the 19th most visited website based on web traffic as of 1998.[8]

Lycos acquired HotBot as part of its acquisition of Wired in October 1998 and it was run separately, alongside Lycos's already existing search engine.[9] Hereafter, HotBot languished with limited development and falling market share. A HotBot NeoPlanet browser was also released which integrated HotBot and other Wired and Lycos links.[10] At the end of 2002, HotBot was relaunched as a multiple option search tool, giving users the option to search either the FAST, Google, Inktomi or Teoma databases.[11][12]

In March 2004, Lycos launched a beta release of a free toolbar search product, Lycos HotBot DeskTop, which the company said was "the first product to integrate traditional desktop search with Web search within the browser." The HotBot DeskTop could search the Internet using Inktomi, e-mail folders for Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, and user documents stored on a hard drive. It also incorporated a blocker for pop-up ads and an RSS News Reader syndication. Indexes created to track e-mail and user files remained stored locally to protect user privacy. Text-based ads were displayed when viewing results for several types of Internet searches. Lycos licensed dtSearch technology to power the local search options.[13]

Former (2011–2016) logo

In July 2011, HotBot was relaunched with a new robot-like mascot, a new logo, and a modern site design. In the beta, HotBot became a portal, returning not just web search results, but also searches from various Lycos websites, such as News, Shopping and Weather Zombie. The portal interface lasted for roughly six months, and these features were instead reincorporated into the 2012 Lycos website redesign, returning HotBot to a simplified search interface.

In October 2016, Lycos sold the domain name for $155,000 to an unnamed buyer.[14] Afterwards, HotBot transformed into a shopping, travel and money search site, and got a new logo.

In April 2018, the classic HotBot look and design returned, and it turned into a privacy-focused search engine.

As of 2020, Hotbot is a VPN company based in Seychelles.[15]


  2. ^ Weise, Elizabeth (May 19, 1996). "New Search Tool Hits the Web". Associated Press.
  3. ^ PC Mag, 22 Oct 1996, p. 48
  4. ^ "Where Are They Now? Search Engines We've Known & Loved". Search Engine Watch. 2003-03-04. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  5. ^ Search Engines for the World Wide Web by Alfred Glossbrenner, Emily Glossbrenner, p. 101
  6. ^ Crum, Rex (March 22, 1999). "Direct Hit gets searches on target with HotBot". American City Business Journals.
  7. ^ "Inktomi Powers Advanced Information Indexing". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  8. ^ Bump, Philip (2010-03-23). "Flashback From 1998: When Altavista, Lycos, And Blue Mountain Arts Ruled the Web". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  9. ^ "Website Design, e-Commerce Websites and Content Managed Website Designs". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  10. ^ "The HotBot Neoplanet Browser". 2000-02-29. Archived from the original on 2000-02-29. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  11. ^ "Search engine rankings on HotBot: a brief history of the HotBot search engine". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  12. ^ "The return of HotBot". 2002-12-17. Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  13. ^ Quint, Barbara; Price, Gary (2004-03-22). "Lycos HotBot Offers Free DeskTop Toolbar". Retrieved 2019-02-13.
  14. ^ ALLEMANN, ANDREW (October 4, 2016). "Lycos sells for $155,000". Domain Name Wire.
  15. ^ "HotBot VPN: Learn About Our Company and Policies". HotBot VPN: Fast, Anonymous, Unlimited, VPN Service. Retrieved 2020-02-18.

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