Mysimon.Com

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MYSIMON.COM

MySimon.com, a wholly owned subsidiary of CNET Networks, is a leading comparison shopping site on the Internet. Through its proprietary Virtual Learning Agent (VLA) technology, users are able to shop for products at more than 2,000 online merchantsincluding online auctions and classified adsand find the lowest prices. Orders can then be placed directly with the online sellers. MySimon does not sell or ship any products and does not provide customer service support for orders. MySimon is free to use and generates revenue from advertising and merchant affiliates. Merchants may join MySimon's BOLD (Building Online Demand) program and pay a fee to have their name or icon highlighted in search results.

EASY-TO-USE SERVICE

MySimon is considered easy to use. The site's home page offers several search options, including a keyword search for a specific product and a list of 17 product categories called "Shopping Departments" that are further divided into subcategories. Users can browse and search within these categories and enter selection criteria as well as minimum and maximum prices. Although it is not necessary to register to use MySimon.com, those who do so gain access to such features as saved searches and e-mail updates.

Search results appear in a table that lists the products, prices, manufacturers, merchants, and merchant ratings. Users can learn what other shoppers think of specific products and merchants and have the opportunity to write their own reviews. The search results can be sorted by any of the data fields. Clicking on a product's name takes the user to the merchant's Web page.

Purchases are made by clicking on the Buy button next to the product's name. MySimon frames merchant pages with its own name and logo, so it may appear that purchases are made through MySimon. In actuality, they are made directly with the seller over a secure connection.

A mobile version of MySimon is available for wireless devices, including cell phones and Palm and Blackberry handheld devices. Information on obtaining MySimon over a wireless device is available by clicking on MySimon Mobile at the bottom of the site's home page.

PROPRIETARY TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPED IN 1998

MySimon obtains price and product information through its proprietary, patent-pending VLA technology, which sends intelligent agents across the World Wide Web. Developed in 1998 by MySimon co-founder Yeogirl Yun, VLA is a highly scalable, intelligent information retrieval system that is capable of scanning thousands of Web sites and returning precise data instantly. VLA employs next-generation intelligent agent and advanced parallel search technologies to automatically search online sites for price and product information and then present it in an easy-to-read format.

Founded in April 1998 by Michael Yang and Yeogirl Yun, MySimon.com was launched later in the year as a comparison shopping engine. At first the company planned to license its technology to Web portals and other sites. However, competition in licensing became more difficult when Inktomi acquired rival C2B Technologies. In addition, portals began charging higher fees, raising the cost to MySimon to reach a broad audience through them.

Under the direction of president and CEO Joshua Goodman, MySimon refocused in 1999 to become a shopping destination site. At the time MySimon was one of the few independent shopping bots. It was able to search about 1,200 merchants, more than any other service, because some merchants blocked comparative shopping engines that were owned by their competitors. MySimon.com 's revenue came from advertising, affiliate program fees, and promotional opportunities it offered merchants, such as enhanced listings.

In mid-1999 a redesigned MySimon was launched to coincide with a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that was built around the phrase, "The future of shopping is here." A humorous character named Simon was created for the campaign to personify MySimon's shopping bot technology. Through an agreement with Active Research, informative content on products was added to MySimon through the Active Buyer's Guide. During the 1999 holiday shopping season comparative shopping sites experienced heavy traffic, and MySimon's traffic increased by 146 percent from November through December.

In January 2000 MySimon.com was acquired by CNET for $736 million in stock. CNET was in the process of transforming itself from an online publisher into an e-commerce company. During the year My-Simon added more content about products, including reviews from users and editorial recommendations, and more product categories. MySimon also included merchant ratings supplied by Gomez Advisors that assessed each merchant's reliability. Through an arrangement with Billboard magazine, visitors to MySimon.com could access the top titles on various Billboard charts and conduct comparative price searches for them.

MySimon.com enjoyed a record fourth quarter at the end of 2000 in terms of audience growth, page views, and leads. In December it was the number one pure-play consumer comparison shopping site that was not a portal. It had more than 1 million more unique visitors than its nearest competitor, based on traffic as reported by both Nielsen/Net Ratings and Media Metrix. MySimon generated more than half of CNET Networks' total leads to merchants in the fourth quarter, and more than half of MySimon's leads represented non-technology products.

FURTHER READING:

"And All the Price Trimmings." Business Week, December 18, 2000.

"CNET: Can a Tech Guru Handle Wine, Too?" Business Week, October 30, 2000.

Kemp, Ted. "MySimon: Customers Are Inventory." Internet-Week, July 24, 2000.

Kuchinskas, Susan. "MySimon Puts Price Power in Users' Hands." Brandweek, May 24, 1999.

Lucas, Sloane. "Lycos, mySimon Tout New User Guides." Brandweek, August 9, 1999.

"MySimon Adds Billboard Charts to Internet-Shopping Service." Billboard, February 19, 2000.

Pack, Thomas. "Intelligent Shopping Agents." Link-Up, March-April 2001.

Wang, Nelson. "Shopping Tool Aspires to Evolve into Hot Web Site." Internet World, April 5, 1999.

SEE ALSO: CNET Networks Inc.; Shopping Bots