HotBot was launched in 1996 by Wired Magazine. In the course of the next 20 years all major search engines played with HotBot in one way or another. In the beginning Inktomi was used as search technology. A short time later Direct Hit and the Open Directory were added and HotBot worked as a meta search engine. In 2002, Lycos purchased HotBot and switched to a multisearch interface. The user could choose between different search engines, such as Google, Lycos, Ask Jeeves or HotBot (Inktomi was renamed HotBot), followed by Yahoo, LyGo, MSN and others.

In 2011 HotBot switched to a search portal and offered a news search among others. As search technology Lycos was used, which got its content from Yahoo, which in turn used Bing.

Since Sommer 2017 the side offers no own resultpage anymore it’s only a search interface directing to Bing.

Since 2019 HotBot again offers its own results page. The search content is provided by Bing.

Language English

Launched May 1996
Closed No

Developer Wired Digital, Inc.

Country of Origin US America

1996 - 1998 Wired Digital, Inc.
1998 - [...] Lycos

Topic Universal

Region No Limitation

Technical functionalities
Search Interface / Search API
Multi Search
Robot/Crawler based, algorithmic search

Used SeEn Inktomi
Direct Hit
FAST (Fast Search & Transfer)
Google Search Engine
Ask Jeeves / Ask SeEn

Robot: Slurp (originaly: Inktomi Slurp) (Source)

Older Version Internet Archive / WebCite

Danny Sullivan (2004): »May 1996 - HotBot launches.«
»3/15/97 - HotBot launches its SmartCrawl system, which will eventually index up to 10 million web pages per week. Competitors are in the 3 million web pages per week range.«
»5/09/97 - 2nd PC Computing Search Engine Challenge. HotBot won with 13 points. Excite came in a close second with 12 points, followed by AltaVista with 6 points and Infoseek with 4 points.«
»Aug. 1997 - HotBot adds instant Add URL feature, allowing submitted pages to be available within 48 hours.«
»Aug. 1997 - HotBot changes names of NewBot to NewsBot, to better reflect the news-only search service's function. The service also becomes an HTML service.«
»8/12/97 - Northern Light search engine launches publicly. It is the first major search engine to begin crawling the web since the launch of HotBot back in May 1996.«
»10/1/97 - HotBot debuts new look« »12/11/97 - HotBot announced that it now indexes more than 110 million web pages, making it the largest search engine. AltaVista remains a close second, at 100 million.«
»2/10/98 - HotBot adds a browsable directory of web sites to its service, a branded version of the LookSmart directory.«
»8/19/98 - The Direct Hit ranking system debuts on HotBot.«
»9/29/98 - HotBot debuts new look.«
»10/6/98 - Lycos announces that it is to acquire Wired Digital, owner of HotBot.«
»Feb. 1999 - HotBot's top results begin coming from the Direct Hit's popularity ranking system by default, rather than this being an alternative choice available to users.«
»Apr. 1999 - Lycos and HotBot both add editor-compiled results originating from the Open Directory. In particular, Lycos implements these in such a way that it essentially transforms the service from a search engine and into a Yahoo-like directory.« Source

Greg R. Notess (2004): »HotBot, owned by Terra/Lycos, is one of older Web search engines. Originally it just used the Inktomi database and then added Direct Hit and the Open Directory. Then in Dec. 2002, it relaunched as a multiple search engine with Inktomi, Fast, Google, and Teoma. In July 2003, they stayed with the same four databases, but renamed them HotBot, Lycos, Google, and Ask Jeeves. Lycos was dropped in March 2004. This review covers HotBot using the Inktomi database, which they now call "HotBot." See the Google and Teoma (Ask Jeeves) reviews for more details on how their database and interface work, bearing in mind that not all features are available at HotBot. The basic search screen shows no options, but choose Advanced Search for the full range of search features.« Source

»HotBot used to be a really cool search engine started by Wired Magazine. Like us, it was launched in 1996. It was free, easy to get listed, and provided a quick, down-and-dirty search. Plus, it was one of the first search engines to allow web masters to put a copy of the engine on their sites.

Things change, especially quickly on the Internet:
In 1998, Lycos purchased HotBot. By 2002 it was another meta search engine crammed with paid advertising. Now, HotBot search results are provided by Lycos, and Lycos search results are provided by Yahoo!, and of course, Yahoo! search results are provided by Bing. So, HotBot search results are hybridized (by Lycos) Bing search results which are provided to Lycos through the Yahoo! Search API.

"Lycos is not the source of any listing being included in our search results. We work with Yahoo! and they provide us the search feed, which we display on our website. Contractually, Lycos can not and do not edit or remove any results we get from Yahoo! API." Source: Lycos Knowledge Base« Source

Owen Thomas (February 22, 1999): »On Monday, Wired Digital's HotBot search engine began serving results directly from Direct Hit. Wired and Direct Hit estimate that between half and two-thirds of HotBot users will be served a page with results from Direct Hit's "popularity engine," a database that ranks pages by the number of users who actually follow links to them.

Previously, Direct Hit results were offered to HotBot users as an option to supplement a Web-page database provided by Inktomi (INKT).

"In the short term, it means that we send fewer queries to Inktomi," says HotBot marketing director David Pritchard. "But with the rapid growth we've seen in HotBot, we expect that should more than make up for it -- the pie gets bigger."

DIVERSITY IS KEY Inktomi doubts that the San Mateo-based company's results will suffer in the next quarter. According to spokesperson Kevin Brown, Inktomi gets less than 20 percent of its revenues from HotBot, and search services now represent less than half of all revenues.

The company has diversified its search customer base to include giants like Yahoo (YHOO), and is seeing strong growth in its Traffic Server caching product. It also will soon launch customer sites using its Shopping Engine, including Infoseek's Go Shop.

The HotBot account is still a flagship for Inktomi; when the search engine launched in 1996, HotBot was Inktomi's only customer, and revenues from the HotBot partnership helped sustain Inktomi through its initial public offering and beyond.

In short, Inktomi diversified its revenue base just in time: Direct Hit was a close call.« Source

Sullivan, Danny (Mar 3, 2003): »Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: ... HotBot (1996; reborn 2002): Launched in May 1996, HotBot was initially powered by Inktomi and backed by Wired. HotBot's wild colors, great results and impressive features drew acclaim. Lycos (now Terra Lycos) bought the service as part of Wired Digital in 1998. As the "other" Lycos search engine, it suffered from a lack of attention by its parent. Last December, it was revitalized as a meta-like search engine, offering access to results from four different major search engines: Google, FAST, Teoma and Inktomi.« Source

»unterstützt Phrasensuche« Source

Paul Gibson (1999) - HotBot's future is in Lycos' hands — Users hope that the search engine won't be hobbled by an acquisition: »WEB WATCH column presents an overview of Wired Digital Inc.'s HotBot search engine, and ponders the future of the product, now that the company is being acquired by Lycos. Reviews the business strategy that drove Wired Digital to seek acquisition by a company capable of providing needed financial backing, technology infrastructure, and product development and marketing muscle. Says that Lycos was interested in the property as part of its ``best-of-breed'' acquisition plan for building out the new Lycos Network. Explores the likely scenarios for the HotBot product going forward under the Lycos brand, and expresses hope that Lycos will have the foresight to keep the attractive and sophisticated search engine well-funded and well-developed.« Source


»HotBot is a play on the underlying crawler technology used by major search engines to discover web pages. The earliest crawlers were known as "web robots" or bots, because they were autonomous, automated programs that found their way around the web on their own. HotBot was created by Wired, and the name seemed an appropriate match for the company's hip image.« Source

Critical points

Features & Functionality

Since 2017 the search engine offers no own result page anymore and goes to Bings result page.


Example results page for "sand": Source

References & further Publications

Wikipedia (EN):
Wikipedia (Others):

Other Sources

History and Analysis of HotBot. Online available at SEO Logic. URL:
Greg R. Notess (2004): Review of HotBot (Inktomi) URL:
Owen Thomas (February 22, 1999): A Direct Hit on Inktomi? In: Red Herring Online URL:
Danny Sullivan (2004): Search Engine Timeline URL:
Sullivan, Danny (Mar 3, 2003): Where Are They Now? Search Engines We've Known & Loved URL:

Created: 2013-01-22