Quack.com was founded in 1998 by Steven Woods, Jeromy Carriere and Alex Quilici as a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, based voice-portal infrastructure company originally named Quackware. Quack is notable for being the first company to actively try to create a voiceportal, or a consumer-based destination "site" in which consumers could not only access information by voice alone, but also complete transactions. Quackware launched a beta phone service in 1999 that allowed consumers to purchase books from sites such as Amazon and CDs from sites such as CDNow simply by answering a short set of questions. Quack followed on with a set of information services from movie listings (inspired by, but expanding upon, Moviefone) to news, weather and stock quotes. This concept introduced a series of lookalike startups including much-heralded Tellme Networks which went on to raise more money than any single Internet startup in history on a similar concept.
Quack received venture funding in 1999 and moved operations to Mountain View in Silicon Valley, California in 1999. Just one year later in September 2000 Quack was acquired for $200 million by America Online and moved onto the Netscape campus with what was left of the Netscape team. Quack famously was attacked in the Canadian press for being representative of the Canadian "brain drain" to the US during the Internet bubble, focusing its recruiting efforts on the University of Waterloo, hiring more than 50 engineers from Waterloo in less than 10 months. Quack competitor Tellme Networks raised enormous funds in what became a highly competitive market in 2000, with the emergence of more than a dozen additional competitors in a 12 month period.
Following its acquisition by America Online in a Ted Leonsis-led effort to bring Quack into AOL Interactive, the Quack voice service became AOL By Phone as one of AOL's "web properties" along with MapQuest, Moviefone and others. Harvard Business School Online offers a two-part report on the interactions of Quack.com and TellMe during acquisition and these can be found at [http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/search/searchResults.jhtml;jsessionidKJSVIEAQRSVLQAKRGWDSELQBKE0YIISW?Ntxmode%2Bmatchallpartial&NttQuack.com&x0&y0&N0&Ntk=main_search Strategic Direction at Quack.com (A and B)]
Quack secured several key patents that underly the technical challenges of delivering interactive voice services. Constructing a voiceportal requires significant integrations and innovations not only in speech recognition and speech generation, but also in databases, application specification, constraint-based reasoning and artificial intelligence and computational linguistics. "Quack"'s name derived from the company goal of providing not only voice-based services, but more broadly "Quick Ubiquitous Access to Consumer Knowledge".
The key patents showing Quack.com leadership in the telephony/Internet explosion of 1998-2000 include: [http://www.google.com/patents?vidUSPAT6510417&idZ1kOAAAAEBAJ System and method for voice access to Internet-based information], [http://www.google.com/patents?vidUSPAT7103563&idj696AAAAEBAJ System and method for advertising with an Internet Voice Portal] and recognizing the axiom that in interactive voice systems one must "know the set of possible answers to a question before asking it". [http://www.google.com/patents?vidUSPAT6687734&idvHMSAAAAEBAJ System and method for determining if one web site has the same information as another web site].
discussed Quack and its acquisition by AOL in more detail. Prior to acquisition Lycos licensed Quack's services for their own voice portal and this is outlined in a .