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|Headquarters||Palo Alto, California, USA|
|Key people||Paul Flaherty, Louis Monier, Michael Burrows, Jeffrey Black|
|Parent||Overture Services, Yahoo!|
|Alexa rank||5381 (As of August 2011[update])|
|Type of site||Search engine|
|Launched||December 15, 1995|
AltaVista was a web search engine owned by Yahoo!. AltaVista was once one of the most popular search engines but its popularity declined with the rise of Google. In 2010, Yahoo! announced that it plans to discontinue the site.
AltaVista was created by researchers at Digital Equipment Corporation's Network Systems Laboratory and Western Research Laboratory, who were trying to provide services to make finding files on the public network easier. Paul Flaherty was responsible for the original idea , and two key participants were Louis Monier, who wrote the crawler, and Michael Burrows, who wrote the indexer. The name AltaVista was chosen in relation to the surroundings of their company at Palo Alto. AltaVista was publicly launched as an internet search engine on December 15, 1995 at altavista.digital.com.
At launch, the service had two innovations which set it ahead of the other search engines; It used a fast, multi-threaded crawler (Scooter) which could cover many more Web pages than were believed to exist at the time and an efficient search running back-end on advanced hardware. As of 1998, it used 20 multi-processor machines using DEC's 64-bit Alpha processor. Together, the back-end machines had 130 GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard disk space, and received 13 million queries per day. This made AltaVista the first searchable, full-text database of a large part of the World Wide Web. The distinguishing feature of AltaVista was its minimalistic interface compared with other search engines of the time; a feature which was lost when it became a portal, but was regained when it refocused its efforts on its search function.
AltaVista's site was an immediate success. Traffic increased steadily from 300,000 hits on the first day to more than 80 million hits a day two years later. The ability to search the web, and AltaVista's service in particular, became the subject of numerous articles and even some books. AltaVista itself became one of the top destinations on the web, and by 1997 would earn US$50.5 million in sponsorship revenue.
In 1996, AltaVista became the exclusive provider of search results for Yahoo!. In 1998, Digital was sold to Compaq and in 1999, Compaq redesigned AltaVista as a web portal, hoping to compete with Yahoo!. Under CEO Rod Schrock, AltaVista abandoned its streamlined search page and focused on features like shopping and free email. In June 1998, Compaq paid AltaVista Technology Incorporated ("ATI") $3.3 million for the domain name altavista.com – Jack Marshall, cofounder of ATI, had registered the name in 1994.
In June 1999, Compaq sold a majority stake in AltaVista to CMGI, an internet investment company. CMGI filed for an initial public offering for AltaVista to take place in April 2000, but as the internet bubble collapsed, the IPO was cancelled. Meanwhile, it became clear that AltaVista's portal strategy was unsuccessful, and the search service began losing market share, especially to Google. After a series of layoffs and several management changes, AltaVista gradually shed its portal features and refocused on search. By 2002, AltaVista had improved the quality and freshness of its results and redesigned its user interface.
In December 2010, a Yahoo employee leaked PowerPoint slides that the search engine would be shut down as part of a consolidation at Yahoo. In May 2011, the shut down commenced, and AltaVista's search panel was replaced with a Yahoo! search, with all results returned on a Yahoo! page.
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