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Desktop Wars

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Last month we looked at the pioneers of desktop search on the PC; Zylab, ISYS and dtSearch. Over a decade later on 14 October 2004 Google Desktop Search was released and in the same month Microsoft announced its intention of offering search software by the end of that year, the desktop war was in full swing!

Prior to 2004 there were also other Web Search Engine companies around, Infoseek (1994 - 2001), Alta Vista (1994 - 2003), Lycos (1994), Excite (1995 - 2001), Inktomi (1996 - 2002 acquired by Yahoo and its enterprise search server to Verity), Hotbot (1996 - used the Inktomi engine and was acquired by Lycos in 1998), Alltheweb (Fast (1999 - 2003), Yahoo (1995), Ask Jeeves (1997), but these were invariably running on Unix/Linux systems and their business model was based on selling advertising.

These web companies began a battle for the Desktop which peaked in 2004 when Google Desktop Search (GDS) was launched; earlier in the year (March) Lycos had announced the Hotbot Desktop Toolbar (this used the dtSearch Engine). Ask Jeeves was also a contender by the end of 2004, and the French firm Exalead also offered a free search tool by 2005.

Anxious to jump on this bandwagon several venture fund backed companies started to offer similar consumer tools, Copernic released the free Copernic Desktop Search (CDS) in August 2004 and Coveo was spun out of Copernic to offer the same technology for the enterprise market. Bill Gross' IdeaLab backed X1 Technology and its search engine was used by Yahoo rather late in the battle by January 2005. 

Common features for all these were that they were aimed at the consumer market, they were all free, they were all for download and had a small file size since the majority of web users were still on 56kB download speeds!

To make them consumer friendly, new features appeared such as search-as-you-type, automatic indexing of My Documents folders, playing of audio and video files but lacking advanced features such as synonym searching, multiple indexes, little or no user control of what or when to index and often struggling with large files, right to left scripts such as Hebrew, and very limited search query lengths! 

In 2004 dtSearch, like other business oriented search tools, was still distributed as a boxed CDROM product with a printed manual, amazingly many firms advertised wonderful 'box shots' of their software when in reality they were (are!) only available as a download. The dtSearch boxed products were discontinued in 2011, the same year that Google Desktop Search was discontinued!

 

Find out more... 

 

March 2004 - Information Today article "Lycos HotBot Offers Free DeskTop Toolbar"

April 2004 - Search Engine Watch - "HotBot's New Desktop Search Toolbar"

Aug 2004 - Search Engine Watch - A New Player in Desktop Search

Oct 2004 - BBC - "Search wars hit desktop computers"

Nov 2004 - PCWorld - Find Files Fast

Dec 2004 - geek.com - Yahoo to get its own desktop search tool

Dec 2004 - Search Engine Watch - "Ask Jeeves Launches Desktop Search"

Dec 2004 - Search Engine Watch - "MSN Joins the Desktop Search Fray"

Jan 2005 - Search Engine Watch - "Yahoo Launches Desktop Search"

Jan 2005 - Search Engine Watch - "A Few Thoughts About Yahoo Desktop Search"

Aug 2010 - Reuters - "Copernic and N. Harris Computer Corporation Enter Into an Arrangement Agreement"

Nov 2010 - Search EnginePeople blog 7 Search Engines Google Obliterated

Jul 2013 - KMWorld (Stephen Arnold) - "Desktop search: changes ahead?"

April 2014 - The Globe and Mail - Constellation Software's elusive CEO


Wikipedia links:

Lycos
Excite
Hotbot
Inktomi
Copernic
Coveo

 

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