AltaVista Returns to Its Roots

SAN FRANCISCO (05/04/2000) - AltaVista Co., the Internet's granddaddy of search services, is getting back to basics with a new search engine meant to appeal to veteran Net searchers.

On Thursday, AltaVista officially adds Raging Search to its stable of Internet properties. Raging Search is a "pure" search site catering to search enthusiasts thirsty for only relevant links and not interested in a megaportal experience.

The site lacks banner ads and adopts a minimalist approach to design. It leans heavily on a revamped version of AltaVista's proprietary search technology.

In a related announcement, AltaVista says it finished assessing a mind-numbing 1.2 billion Web pages and culling the number of "quality" Web pages it indexes down to 350 million.

AltaVista says it will use this new pool of URLs to rank Web pages based on popularity, associated links, and keywords. The main AltaVista Search site and Raging Search will use the same underlying search technology.

Guarding Against Google

Raging Search contrasts with the company's recent attempts to become a consumer-focused megaportal. As part of a $40 million makeover last October, AltaVista added a wide range of news and entertainment, an electronic-commerce platform, and expanded search capabilities.

AltaVista says Raging Search will reinforce its leadership position in search.

Up-and-coming services like Google and Direct Hit, and more established ones such as Northern Light, have lured some users away.

"Search has always been AltaVista's core competency," says Barry Parr, analyst with the research firm IDC. "Google has got a tremendous amount of momentum and is raising worries."

Raging Search looks very similar to Google. However, with Raging Search you can tailor the user interface to match your interests.

Currently, you can customize the number results you receive per page and the languages you want to search. "In the future we'll experiment by giving users even more control over design and layout," says Rajiv Parikh, director of product management for AltaVista Search and Business Solutions.

Portal Popularity

"There are definitely a lot of people who have seen their search engines turn into portals and haven't been happy about that," says Danny Sullivan, editor of the SearchEngineWatch.com industry newsletter.

He says Google's traffic numbers may be small today, but its user base is made up of the kind of savvy surfers that trigger Web trends, pulling the masses with them.

The AOL network is the number one general purpose Web site in the United States, with 60 million unique visitors a month. AltaVista is in 12th place, with 12 million visitorsAltaVista was the fifth most visited search site behind Yahoo, Lycos, Go.com, and Excite for the month of March, according to research firm Media Metrix.

Google is the eleventh most popular search site, beating out Dogpile and WebCrawler.

AltaVista will make money by selling text-based advertisements alongside query results. Also, an "Other Resources" section appears at the bottom of result pages with links to merchants or other businesses.

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