AltaVista Ventures into B-to-B

SAN MATEO (01/28/2000) - AltaVista Co. will announce this week the launch of a new global business-to-business e-commerce unit called AltaVista Business Solutions, focused on developing search technology for e-commerce firms, private label portals, and global enterprises.

The company will also announce the formation of a partnership with Borders bookstore, through which AltaVista search engines will anchor new information kiosks being planned for Borders' physical stores. Separately, Borders' existing Web site, http://www.borders.com, is also expected to eventually adopt AltaVista technology.

AltaVista officials claim that better search technology could help companies increase the size of online visitors who actually purchase.

"[Only] about 2.7 percent of browsers become buyers. Search is critical to this. The closest thing to what [customers] actually want is represented by a search: 56 percent of e-commerce search attempts fail to develop relevant results," said Jeff Black, vice president of AltaVista Business Solutions.

AltaVista's search software can be modified according to customers' rules of relevance, officials said. For example, a bookstore might have searches for "pumpkins," yield pumpkin pie recipes first around Thanksgiving, but pumpkin-carving books around Halloween.

The officials also said that AltaVista's ability to perform structured searches across multiple unstructured databases of differing types can also dramatically increase query speeds.

"Think of the FBI -- they have a criminal database [of] 400 million records in an Oracle database. They'd enter in a query and they'd say, 'Find all instances that are similar.' The typical time for the search would be about 22 hours.

Once they put in AltaVista ... it speeds up the querying to nine seconds," Black said.

AltaVista Co., in Palo Alto, Calif, is at http://www.altavista.com.

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