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Disney portal moving forward

The media giant holds the "go.com" domain, fueling speculation that this URL is the name of its much-anticipated portal site.

Is the Disney portal a "go"?

The Walt Disney Company has quietly registered the "go.com" domain name, fueling speculation that this URL is the code name--or the name itself--for the media giant's much-anticipated portal site.

As reported, Disney, Infoseek, and Starwave are teaming up to create a gateway to the Internet. A "preview" is expected by year's end, and a full-scale launch is planned for the start of next year. It is expected to become the "mother of all portals," as one source put it.

Up to this afternoon, Netizens who typed in "go.com" on the Web were directed to a page that read "home.Disney.com." The rest was blank. But the go.com page has since been removed.

"I think the name you're batting around is a good one," one source said. Another was more definitive: "This is one of the worst-kept secrets around."

According to the InterNIC, Disney registered the name "go.com" on January 9. Email is being directed to a Disney server dubbed "Huey," a sign that the company may be planning to make the site active.

A Disney spokeswoman declined comment. Barak Berkowitz, senior vice president and general manager of the portal site, said only: "I don't know."

Sources said the domain name "go.com" makes sense. It is easy to remember and easy to type--a user on many browsers would merely have to type in the word "go" in the URL window. It also is distinct from Disney, allowing the company to showcase information and entertainment from its other operations, such as ESPN and ABC, not just Disney-branded content.

Another concern that Disney might have using a portal with its name: users conducting searches often come across information, such as sexually explicit material, on the Net with which a company like Disney would not want to be associated. By having a different name for its portal, Disney could avoid tarnishing its flagship brand name.

Currently, Disney has its own branded search directory called "Dig," which uses a human staff to weed out pornographic content or what the company considers to be inappropriate material for its audience.

On the other hand, the sources cautioned that Disney could opt for another name for the portal site. They point to the case of Microsoft, where the software giant dropped the name "start.com" and chose "MSN.com" instead. The URL also is similar to another Net search directory, "goto.com."

According to Infoseek chief operating officer Les Wright, the portal site will include channels featuring entertainment and family-oriented content, powered by Disney; and sports and news, powered by ESPN and ABC, respectively. The search function and other channels will be powered by Infoseek.

Infoseek said no decision has been made whether to eliminate the Infoseek portal. "We don't anticipate the Infoseek brand to go away," Berkowitz said. "We'd be pretty foolish to throw that in the garbage." For example, the companies could offer two brands, one for the new portal site and another for Infoseek-centric customers.

Exite, America Online, Lycos, and others all have pursued the multiportal strategy.

In June, Disney bought a 43 percent stake in Infoseek in exchange for Disney's ownership in Starwave plus $70 million in cash. The deal is another example of the recent merger mania between Internet directories and media empires. Disney's two-way deal with Infoseek and Starwave was meant to help it build a portal site.