LookSmart: Burned By the Borg


Add LookSmart to the list of companies that were partnering with Microsoft that then got burned. I worked at LookSmart for a while back in 1998 (is there anywhere I haven't worked?) and I can say that they were a bunch of really nice guys over there, but I've got to say it that they deserve what they got. 65% of their revenues were from MSN? Oh my.

"If you play with the devil, you're going to hell."

Ever see Triumph of the Nerds? There's a part with Steve Balmer is gloating about their deal with IBM. He's describing how they had to "ride the bear" and how through most of the 80s they did whatever IBM wanted because the majority of their revenues were coming from IBM and they had to do whatever they needed to do to keep that relationship: ride the bear. But then Microsoft pulled the switcheroo on IBM in 1990 (91?) broke off developing OS/2 and launched Windows 3.0. From riding the bear to screwing the bear. Microsoft rode the bear right to the edge of that choasm and then let go.

So LookSmart was providing the search for MSN, thinking it was riding the bear. Just like Sendo last year, and probably many others. But guess what? Microsoft has both an amazingly long view of the future (and the money to back that view) and an elephant like memory. Billg still gets his knickers in a bunch over illegal copies of MS Basic made in 1978 on paper rolls. Does anyone really think they're going to let themselves be taken advantage of like this? Nope.

So no sympathy from me. Deal with Microsoft and you deserve what you get. Sendo's barely solvent and LookSmart's going looking for buyers. Surprise, surprise. And Microsoft just made another $4 million in the time it took me to write this.


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