About.com is about to become something else.
The all-purpose, general interest website that dates back to the earliest days of the internet is disappearing for good Tuesday after a year-long process that broke the operation into a constellation of niche-focused sites.
The company, which has been owned by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp since 2012, will now be called Dotdash as the About.com site is retired.
“About.com is a funny thing. Everyone knows what it is, but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone,” he said.
Starting a year ago, About.com began splintering off topics into a variety of stand-alone sites, starting with the health and wellness focused site, Verywell. The company has since added The Spruce for home improvement, The Balance for personal finance, Lifewire for technology and ThoughtCo for learning. Soon TripSavvy will be added with articles on travel.
Launched in 1997 as a catchall answer site before the days of powerful search engines like Google, About.com’s trajectory serves as a road map of sorts for the short history of the internet.
Riding the wave of the first dot-com boom, About.com was sold in 2000 to magazine publisher Primedia Inc. in a deal that valued the site at $690 million.
Five years later, following the collapse of the dot-com bubble, About.com was bought by New York Times Co. for $410 million.
The site found firm footing as the era of “search” took hold on the internet, with its pages often surfacing high in search queries. But it struggled to establish a discernible brand due to its vast scope, said Mr. Vogel, who took over after the site was acquired by IAC in 2012 for $300 million.
He said the environment for big, general interest sites like Yahoo, AOL and About.com has grown tougher in recent years as the key driver of web traffic has shifted to social media, which tends to benefit topic-specific sites more.
Various digital media outlets from Vice to Business Insider and Gizmodo Media Group have structured themselves to varying degrees with distinctive web presences built around subject matters.
The new title, Dotdash, will effectively be a corporate trade name, Mr. Vogel said, and won’t be consumer focused. The name is partly a homage to the “dot” that appeared in the About.com logo, with the dash representing forward motion. He also noted that in Morse code, “Dot-Dash” translates as the letter A.