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MetaCrawler was a metasearch engine program that blended web search results from Google, Yahoo!, Bing (formerly Live Search), Ask.com, About.com, MIVA, LookSmart and other popular search engine programs. MetaCrawler also provided users the option to search for images, video, news, business and personal telephone directories, and for a while even audio. MetaCrawler became well known during the late 1990s when the verb "metacrawled" was used by television talk show host Conan O'Brien on TRL. MetaCrawler is a registered trademark of InfoSpace, Inc.
MetaCrawler was developed originally during 1994 at the University of Washington by then graduate student Erik Selberg and Professor Oren Etzioni as Selberg's Ph.D. qualifying project. Originally, it was created in order to provide a reliable abstraction layer to early Web search engine programs such as WebCrawler, Lycos, and InfoSeek in order to study semantic structure on the World Wide Web. However, it was a useful service in its own right, and had a number of research challenges.
By early 1995, MetaCrawler was operating on four Digital Equipment Corporation AlphaStations and processing several hundred thousand queries per day. This was starting to create significant bandwidth load at UW. It became clear that MetaCrawler needed to have some method of paying for the queries it was forwarding to the primary search engines.
During the summer of 1995, NetBot, Inc. was initiated to commercialize MetaCrawler and three other UW programs: Ahoy! The HomePage Finder, Occam, and ShopBot. Ahoy! and Occam were never actually commercialized. MetaCrawler's owners were unable to determine a reasonable business model, so they licensed it to another Internet startup company, Go2Net. NetBot then combined the core of MetaCrawler with ShopBot to create a meta-shopping website, Jango. NetBot was then purchased by Excite, where Jango became part of the Excite Network Shopping Channel. Both Selberg and Etzioni resumed working for UW until 1999, when they joined Go2Net for a year, quitting just prior to Go2Net's acquisition by InfoSpace, Inc. during 2000. InfoSpace now owns and operates the metasearch engines Dogpile and WebCrawler.
Go2net became a corporation during 1998, registered with Nasdaq, with its primary asset being MetaCrawler.com. MetaCrawler.com and Go2net were acquired by InfoSpace (now Blucora) during 1999 for $4.2 billion. As of March 2015, the URL metacrawler.com is being redirected to zoo.com.
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