Go.com, the new portal built by Disney, Infoseek and Starwave, has begun its bid to become the dominant content entity on the Internet.
The launch comes only about seven months after the relationship between the three companies began and two months after the deal closed. Executives at Infoseek and Disney have said that Go.com has 20 million visitors upon release, placing it fourth among portal sites.
The key to the success of the joint venture will be Disney's branding prowess, Jake Winebaum, chairman of Disney's Buena Vista Internet Group, said in a teleconference on Tuesday. "Go.com will combine all the online and offline marketing muscle of the Disney corporation," Winebaum said. "Every time a URL is mentioned on air -- starting today -- Go Network will also be mentioned."
The specter of Time Warner's Pathfinder effort was repeatedly raised by reporters during the conference call. Some critics have compared the Go.com site to Pathfinder, which was roundly criticised as a closed environment on an open Internet.
"We spent the last four years developing strong independent brands like ESPN.com and ABCNews.com first," Winebaum said. Pathfinder took the opposite approach."
Still, critics of the beta version of Go.com, which was launched in December, say the site looked too closed and featured mostly Disney-related offerings. Harry Motro, CEO of Infoseek, defended Go.com during the conference call.
"Our mission, to be absolutely clear, is to offer the entire breadth and diversity of the Internet," Motro said. "We want users to know that they can come to Go to use the whole Internet."
"It's not as if Go.com is aggregating generic services," Winebaum added. "ESPN.com is first in sports, Disney is first in family and ABCNews.com is the fastest-growing news service on the Internet."
Both executives pointed to three areas in which Go.com will become active in its first year as a service: in local markets, in dealings with Internet service providers and in e-commerce. In particular, Winebaum said that Disney will leverage some ABC stations in its online push into local markets. It is also generally known that Go.com executives look to acquire or make a deal with a financial content provider to build a cobranded financial channel.
The launch of Go.com has clearly raised the competitive stakes in the portal-aggregator market. Last week, America Online signed CBS to be its news provider, replacing ABCNews.com. "ABCNews.com's three-year deal with AOL to be their news provider was up," Winebaum said. "And we didn't feel the terms offered by AOL for renewal were attractive."