SAN FRANCISCO -- Whatever terminology you want to use -- buy the rumor, sell the fact or buy the mystery, sell the history -- Internet stocks saw profit-taking following a number of high-profile quarterly results.

Losses in

America Online

(AOL)

appeared to be the catalyst for the tech selloff. The company posted solid

earnings and traded higher early in the session. But investors took advantage of the early uptick to get out of the stock and it finished the day down 9, or 5.8%, at 144.

Derek Brown, Internet analyst with

Volpe Brown Whelan

, said the price action fits the pattern of what has occurred in recent quarters after some of the big names have reported earnings.

"AOL's quarter seemed very strong across the board," Brown said. "I get the sense that general price activity was driven more by profit-taking than any fundamental changes in these companies."

While it remains difficult to predict how long the weakness will persist (remember the one-day decline last week?), Brown said that over the past year, investors have used downdrafts "to initiate positions or build on positions" in the leading Internet companies. Though much of the good news regarding earnings is out of the way, Brown said there always is an opportunity for other announcements to give the sector support.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

announced better-than-expected first-quarter results after the close, though it remains to be seen whether the news will be strong enough to lift the sector on Thursday.

Amazon reported a loss of 23 cents a share, which was better than the 29-cent loss

estimate from

First Call

. In the previous quarter, losses were 30 cents per share, and in the year-earlier period the company reported losses of 7 cents per share. Revenue for the first quarter was $293.6, up from $252.9 million in the fourth quarter. The company reported revenue of $87.4 million in the first quarter a year ago.

Amazon.com ended the session down 12 3/8, or 6%, at 193 1/2, and was under some light pressure in after-hours trading, according to

Mr. Stock

, trading as low as 190 in the first five minutes after the earnings were released.

Stocks that reported earnings over the past few days also suffered, but many of the declines follow strong run-ups that occurred in anticipation of good earnings.

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

closed down 13, or 9%, at 135 1/2.

eBay

was down 16 11/16, or 8%, at 192 9/16 and

MindSpring Enterprises

(MSPG)

closed down 13 5/8, or 12%, at 102 11/16.

While buy-the-rumor, sell-the-fact was a common theme among Net stocks, other companies that reported earnings fared better.

BMC Software

(BMCS)

closed up 1 1/2, or 3.6%, at 43 1/4 after besting earnings estimates.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

upped its 12-month target price on the stock to 50 from 45. Dutch software maker

Baan

(BAANF)

closed up 1 3/16, or 13.5%, at 9 15/16, after it reported a loss that was lower than expected.