Lycos Seeks Rebirth as a 'Virtual Living Room'

Lycos Inc., a U.S. Internet portal that survived the bursting of the late 1990s dot-com bubble, plans to resurrect itself as a teen broadband video channel with a built-in text chat room.

Having missed much of the explosive growth of its rivals Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. Lycos, now part of the second largest Korean Internet portal Daum Communications Corp. will launch a high-speed Internet video channel this week and let viewers watch movies simultaneously across the Internet and discuss them.

The service, called Lycos Cinema

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aims to combine two tenets of new Internet businesses -- online video and social networking, embodied by popular sites YouTube Inc. and News Corp.'s MySpace social network.

The ability to upload your own videos will come as early as December or early next year, Lycos Chief Operating Officer Brian Kalinowski told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

"The technology we've created allows for the virtual living room," Kalinowski said.

Lycos said it is using proprietary technology to enable viewers to watch synchronized videos on the Web. The company compared its ability to offer such a service with massive, never-ending online games such as Warcraft and Second Life, which host hundreds of thousands of players.

Lycos users will be able to watch films and create public chatrooms to invite other potential viewers. Viewers in any one particular viewing room can type comments on the window, while watching the movies that are streamed at the same time.

Kalinowski said its service differs from others as it offers feature length films, unlike YouTube, which limits uploaded videos to about 10 minutes.

But he is the first to admit that the roster of films at launch leaves much to be desired. Relatively unknown films including "Legit," "Munich Mambo," and "Triple Threat," are among the 500 titles available at launch.

Kalinowski said it has licensed about 1,000 titles and is in negotiations to obtain 3,000 more.

Lycos also plans to launch an online video service featuring television programming and another service that lets users rent or buy obscure films.


One analyst who viewed the pre-launch service said Lycos may have more success courting other businesses to use the company's technology.

"They're trying to position this not just as a portal, but (a service for) potential partners who might be interested in licensing their platforms," Parks Associates analyst Michael Cai said. "Content might not be the most important."

Kalinowski said it is working with a major music label to launch a new artist on the service. Users will be able to chat with the artists and watch the video at the same time. He declined to name the company.

Cai said such a service could be interesting to an online dating service such as, which could let its users go on virtual movie dates before meeting in person.

"We put together a video player, tied in with a chat and we're using what Barry Diller (IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO) calls 'hybrid content."' Kalinowski said. "We have text, multimedia playing and real time chat."

Kalinowski's reference to Diller is ironic. Diller's company attempted to buy a majority stake in Lycos at the height of the dot-com boom in

1999 for an estimated $4 billion. But investors rejected the deal.

It was purchased for $12.5 billion by Terra Networks a year later, and sold to Korea's Daum for about $95 million in 2004.

"This is an effort to become cool again, in the Web 2.0 era," Cai said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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Kenneth Li
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