Excite is an Internet portal, and as one of the "dotcoms" of the 1990s (along with Yahoo! and Netscape), it was once one of the most recognized brands on the Internet. Today it offers a variety of services, including search, web-based email, instant messaging, stock quotes, and a customizable user homepage. The content is collated from over 100 different sources.
In January 1996, George Bell joined Excite as its Chief Executive Officer. Excite also bought two search engines (Magellan and WebCrawler), and signed exclusive distribution agreements with Netscape, Microsoft, Apple, and other companies. On April 4, 1996, Excite went public with an initial offering of two million shares. In June of 1997, Intuit, maker of Quicken and TurboTax. purchased a 19% stake in Excite and finalized a seven-year partnership deal.
On October 16, 1997, Excite purchased Netbot, a comparison shopping service. At the same time Intuit announced the launch of Excite Business & Investing. Later that year a deal was finalized with Ticketmaster to provide direct online ticketing.
On March 31 1998, Excite reported a net loss of approximately $30.2 million and according to its first quarter report it only had enough available capital to meet obligations through December. In December 1998, Yahoo! was in negotiations to purchase Excite for $5.5 billion to $6 billion. However, prompted by Kleiner Perkins, @Home Network's Chairman and CEO, Thomas Jermoluk met with Excite’s chairman and CEO George Bell on December 19, and Excite was subsequently acquired by @Home Network, on January 19, 1999.
The new company became "Excite@Home", though the stock symbol and the company's name in regulatory filing records remained as "At Home Corporation" (ATHM). Six months after the merger, Tom Jermoluk stepped down as CEO of Excite@Home and Excite’s George Bell, who was the President of the Excite division of @Home after the merger, became the new CEO of combined Excite@Home. Jermoluk remained Chairman of the Board.
Following the merger, the Excite division purchased iMall, as well as online greeting card company Blue Mountain Arts. Excite also acquired photo-sharing company Webshots. Excite furthermore paid for sponsorship of Infiniti Indy car driver Eddie Cheever, Jr., through the 2000 and 2001 racing seasons. However, the merger between Excite and @Home fell disastrously short of expectations. Online advertising revenue plummeted, while cable network ISP revenue continued to grow. On September 21, 2000, after stock value had dropped 90%, George Bell announced plans to step down as within six months. On April 23, 2001, Excite@Home announced Patti S. Hart, the former CEO of Telocity, would become its third CEO in three years. In the same announcement, George Bell resigned and left the company completely. The company also reported first-quarter net loss of $61.6 million, compared with a loss of $4.6 million in the same period the prior year.
On June 11, 2001, Excite@Home announced that it had raised $100 million in financing from Promethean Capital Management and Angelo Gordon & Co. Part of the deal was that the loan was repayable immediately if Excite@Home stock was delisted by Nasdaq. The loan, structured as a note convertible into shares of Excite, had an interest rate of zero. By August 20 of that year, Excite@Home had replaced its auditors Ernst & Young with PricewaterhouseCoopers. This triggered a demand from Promethean Capital Management and Angelo Gordon & Co for the immediate repayment of $50 million in debt . Furthermore, Cox Cable and Comcast announced that they would separate from Excite@Home by the first quarter of 2002.
On September 13, 2001, Excite@Home sold Blue Mountain Arts to American Greetings for less than 5% of what it had paid less than two years earlier. On October 1, 2001, Excite@Home filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. The company's remaining 1,350 employees were laid off over the following months. As part of the agreement, @Home's national high-speed fiber network access would be sold back to AT&T. At Home Liquidating Trust became the successor company to Excite@Home, charged with the sale of all assets of the former company.
At the end of 2001, the Webshots assets were purchased by the company's founders for $2.4 million in cash from the Bankruptcy Court.
During the collapse of Excite@Home, Irvington, New York–based iWon.com had quietly started designing a new, yet familiar, Excite website hoping that it could acquire the Excite.com domain name and brand in the course of the bankruptcy proceedings. IWon.com made a joint bid with Seattle's InfoSpace to purchase the domain and brand. On November 28, the court accepted the bid and gave iWon less than three weeks to launch a new Excite portal. Bill Daugherty, iWon's founder and then co-chief executive at the time told The New York Times, "I feel like a guy who lived through a hurricane, got pounded and pounded and managed to survive when everyone else was destroyed. Suddenly you walk outside and because of the storm you have beachfront property. That's what Excite is to us."
On December 16, 2001, iWon launched the new Excite portal and transferred millions of Excite users to its new home. iWon changed its corporate name to Excite Network, and continued to operate Excite, iWon, and a third portal, MyWay. Outside of the United States, Excite Italia took control of portals in UK, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Polska, Switzerland, and Austria. Infospace, for its part, owned and operated the web search function on Excite. This proved to be a short-sighted arrangement as searching became big business on the Internet in the ensuing years.
In a bid to compete against Internet Service Providers like NetZero and Juno Online, which offered free or low-cost dial-up access in the United States, Excite started offering its own "no-pay" service for private customers by partnering with 1stUp.com to create FreeLane by Excite: 1stUp would allow Excite customers to download software in order for them to be able log-on to the Internet. The software would then rotate a series of sponsored banner advertisements on the user's computer while they surfed the Internet. 1stUp.com soon went out of business, and Excite switched to another partner named WorldShare, rebranding Freelane as FreeLane version 2.0. As of March 1, 2001 Freelane was discontinued.
Excite continued to operate until the Excite Network was acquired by Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) in March 2004. Ask Jeeves promised to rejuvenate iWon and Excite, but did not. Ask Jeeves management became distracted, according to the East Bay Business Times, first by a search feature arms race with Google and Yahoo!, and then by its merger with Barry Diller's InterActive Corporation, announced in March 2005. "Hopefully, as we start to invest more and get the staff in place and some of the changes to the portal properties that we want, we hope to see (revenue) grow back in the latter half of the year," said Ask Jeeves CEO Steve Berkowitz during a conference call with analysts on April 27, 2005.
On May 20, 2005, Ask Jeeves made two announcements regarding the rejuvenation of the Excite brand: First, it had acquired Excite Italia B.V. (the operator of Excite Europe), from Tiscali, S.p.A., and secondly, had reached a comprehensive settlement with InfoSpace involving Excite in the United States whereby Ask Jeeves and InfoSpace would share marketing costs and revenue from the Excite web search function. "We look forward to working with InfoSpace to enhance the search experience on Excite, now that our interests are aligned," said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Ask Jeeves.