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(yes, I've been very busy hording info):
1) Inktomi is just now experimenting with its Phase Two of its directory algorythm adoption by the full index engine (think Theme engine part two)
2) DirectHit is becoming a major competitor to Lycos/Etal and evidently Lycos is not real happy about it. I talked to the press relations manager for cmgi last week (who owns a 10% of Lycos) he said to look for a complete overhaul of Lycos/hotbot before summer.
3) Lycos has committed to switching to full Fast results. The question is, if DirectHit will play any part in that.
4) Lycos/Hotbot have the full DirectHit software and full system - why do they need DH to count clicks anymore?
5) Hotbots license agreement with Direct Hit is up June1.
I think they are just marking time until summer with whatever cobbled together system they can. I've noticed my normal top 10 DirectHit/click sites are falling while some of the same sites on Inktom/Yahoo are rising on HotBot.
I'm going spend sometime this weekend at home and case HotBot to see if I can figure anything out.
The only problem is it is so hard to get valid testing results on theme style engines. Remember how hard it was to get Excite figured out a few years ago? That is the case with Inktomi right now.
Part of the problem in working with themes, has been getting the off topic doorway pages to die. 404's are hanging around forever in inktomi these days.
You are right, links are very important right now under Ink and alta - so much so that it skews trying to understand the theme factor. I'd guess alta has cranked up their link counting here in the last 45 days while turning down the 'theme' factors because so many mega sites were popping up in the top of the results in mid january people were complaining it was becoming like Google.