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Good bye Fireball

lights off in April

12:38 pm on Mar 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

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One of the best known german search engines is going to be shut down in April. Fireball.de, originally a daughter of Gruner & Jahr, had been integrated by Bertelsmann into the Lycos.Europe group.
Not surprisingly the Lycos management decided a second independant websearch and directory didn't make much sense. Fireball will stay online for some time to come, but will be operated by Lycos staff. No efforts will go into marketing and maintainig the unit.

This is sad news for the German SE market. Fireball started under the name Flipper as a university project in Berlin and went online 1997. Back then it was a state of the art engine, with very fast indexing and lots of search options. For international searches Altavista technology was in use.

Over the last two years Fireball, like so many engines of it's generation, somehow lost course. Like Altavista Fireball tried to evolve into a full grown portal - where they stand in direct competition to the heavy weights like T-online, AOL, Web.de - and of course Lycos.de.
On the other hand vertical search products were developed, like Paperball, a online search for newspapers, or Fireball Wissen, searching all kinds of files on german university servers.

In the last months Fireball tried to jump on the PFI bandwagon, with hefty fees for directory inclusion. Shopping channels and services like e-cards obviously didn't make Fireball profitable.

Fireballs search technology was outdated. For SEOs the engine was a spamming paradise. Permanent re-submission brought permanent top positions. Since summer 2001 CEO Kalb had been announcing massive improvements of search quality, including implementation of link popularity and clustering to the ranking algo. It would have been interesting to see those improvements gone live - another independant search engine is vanishing.

On a sidenote: website owners should think twice before paying to be included to Fireballs directory.

6:43 pm on Mar 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Ouch! Bad news heini. :(

That is so sad. Once a good engine with lots of traffic and pretty easy to rank well on too. Now just another corps stacking up in the dot-com morgue.

It really makes me wanna cry - especially when I look a the future with FAST and Google eating up every competitor out there.

Sad news, but thanks for letting us know.

2:13 pm on Mar 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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This just in (I had two express-listings at 150 Euros each pending this morning):

Dear Mr. Rencke,
Fireball.de will not be shut down, there have been changes in the organizational structure. These changes though do not affect the site Fireball.de itself. (...) I can insure you that Fireball will remain online!
Best Regards,
Stefan Beckmann

Heini, do you know what he means by "changes in the organizational structure"?

2:43 pm on Mar 25, 2002 (gmt 0)

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>changes in the organisational structure
Fireball Netsearch GmbH will lose it's offices in Hamburg, parts of the team will move to Gütersloh, where Bertelsmann incl. Lycos.Europe headquarters are.
My take is the company will cease to exist.

The site however, as said before, will remain online. For how long I have no idea.
So I would trust them saying your paid directory submissions are not endangerd. How much effort Lycos is likely to put into marketing fireball anyhow I can only speculate on.

Over the last couple of weeks submissions to Fireball's web index were rarely successfull. German forums [suchmaschinentricks.de] were full of complaints lately.
Another sign of deterioration were ongoing problems with Fireball's freemail service, Firemail.

For today a press release from Lycos was announced - so far I haven't seen any.

I think it would be naive to believe that Fireball will live on as a search engine. It just makes not much sense for Lycos to maintain an own engine, which would have to be overhauled completely.

11:54 am on Mar 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

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>>changes in the organisational structure
>Fireball Netsearch GmbH will lose it's offices in Hamburg,
>parts of the team will move to Gütersloh, where
>Bertelsmann incl. Lycos.Europe headquarters are.

Yes, that´s correct.
And furthermore FB is reindexing i.e. they change their listings and indexing within the next two weeks.

I don´t think so that FB ´ll shut down.

12:56 pm on Mar 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

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This story is getting more interesting all the time. Funny thing is that info pointing to Lycos abandoning Fireball come from Lycos sources, while official announcements today point ot the other direction.
Netzeitung [netzeitung.de], a 100% Lycos daughter, today runs an article, citing an high ranking Lycos Exec as follows:"«Es handelt sich um eine der erfolgreichsten Suchmaschinen, die wir selbstverständlich weiterbetreiben werden.»(Fireball is one of the most successfull search engines, which will of course be further maintained).
The same article cites "Lycos Insider" saying another search portal besides Lycos doesn't make sense.
The article then goes on speculating on a further integration of Fireball search technology into the Lycos search activities, which could even endanger the FAST relationship.

One thing is for sure - the Fireball Netsearch GmbH IS going to be shut down.

Tighter integration into Lycos search functions anyhow can mean anything - from searching the Lycos catalogue to searching Lycos intranets.

Whatever happens to Fireball technology we will see. I would love to see it getting developed further.

4:51 pm on Mar 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Lycos Europe is under massive reorganization. ie. job cuts and tighter pan-european services integration.

Multimania (french personal homepages service, acquired last year) is becoming european, hence the shut down of Tripod for instance. Caramail (french web based email services, originally bought by Spray, then acquired at about the same time as Multimania by Lycos) is well on the way to take over all mail services europe-wide. etc.

a year or so ago, the goal was to become the biggest european portal, via a multi-brands network. the goal is still the same, but it seems they want to unify all the brands into one big european one for some reason.

Lycos used to be one of the most innovative (and first) search engine when it first started. now, in Europe at least, it is definitely a "portal". meaning a big vaporware-like entry to a bunch of services made by acquired companies or partners.

9:45 am on Mar 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

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The confusion continues....
Latest statements [horizont.net] from Lycos.de indicate the site Fireball.de will remain online, as said before. Probably getting closed down will be Fireball's free e-mail service Firemail and their news search Paperball.

Definite (?) confirmation for a shutting down of Hotbot.de, totally vague statements concerning the role the Fireball search technology will paly in the Lycos.Europe group.