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AltaVista Can't Keep Up 434

jedrek writes "MSNBC is reporting that Altavista, the great search engine, isn't able to keep it's listings current. Altavista hasn't renewed it's index since July which, seeing how it's almost November, is a tad too long." AltaVista was my weapon of choice until Google came along and was so much better that most net users jumped ship.
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AltaVista Can't Keep Up

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  • can't make $$$ off a search engine can you?
    • can't make $$$ off a search engine can you?

      Sure you can. google licenses their technology to corps who index their own networks. The main site functions as an advert for this.

  • by British ( 51765 ) <> on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:32PM (#2474236) Homepage Journal
    Why just not make the search engine check individual results(maybe in the order oldest-newest with a threshold as not to overtax the search engine) on a search, and get rid of the 404s? If it sees its share of 404s, don't show it to the user, and update its databse or whatnot so it doesn't have to do it again.

    Yes, a self-updating search engine. Where's my VC?
    • Nice idea in practice, but the speed hit to check all of the returned results in real-time would be significant. With Google, I get results in a fraction of a second...if they were to take on the added CPU and network load of checking all these results before they gave them to me, it would be much much slower, especially considering the amount of traffic they are fielding as the #1 (by far) search engine.

      As long as they keep their database relatively updated (and google does) I'll be happy getting back un-checked results as fast as possible. Also, the google cache feature is REALLY nice and takes away most of the sting of 404s when they do pop up.
  • by spacefem ( 443435 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:32PM (#2474245) Homepage
    AltaVista just started to look like all the others- commercialized, pushy, and annoying. Why is it that every search engine I visit wants to send me shopping? I mean, I know that's how they make money, but I'm there to search, for God's sake. Google doesn't do that. That's why I love it, not because of accuracy, lots of seach engines are accurate, but because it's fast and graphic free, basically, it doesn't try to get in my way. That's the magic, everybody, that's why nobody cares about any other search engine or directory or whathaveyou.
    • AltaVista just started to look like all the others- commercialized, pushy, and annoying.

      Ahh yes, everyone and their mom wants to be a fucking portal. If you still like Altavista's search results (I don't) you should look at [].

    • by Mahonrimoriancumer ( 302464 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:42PM (#2474328) Homepage
      Come on, don't you like it when Altavista gives you the following?

      Extend Your Search:

      Shop the web for anthrax

      Find anthrax at eBay! Register now!

      Search for anthrax in your local yellow pages

    • Even if you are shopping, the results may certainly be.. um interesting.

      A professor gave a talk last year regarding a new spectroscopic method using lasers; however, because of the interaction with the laser and the powdered sample, they wanted to design some method of shaking the powder on the sample tray as to keep 'fresh' sample under the laser at all times. Since they had to build this from scratch, he sent his grad students to the net to search for places that would sell this type of equipment.

      Needless to say, the students had a, uh, rather interesting time searching the web for 'vibrator' vendors.

    • Why is it that every search engine I visit wants to send me shopping?
      Because of an short-sighted desire to generate revenue quickly. That meant "capturing" clicks. So the search engines became "portals" that did everything they could to steer you to affiliated web sites.

      Of course, click-capturing destroys the original purpose of the search engine, which is to make the whole web accessible to the user. Google avoided this trap. Perhaps because they were late into the game, and benefited from the mistakes of others. But I get the impression that their founders just don't like in-your-face web advertising. And it's worked out well for them -- they have no trouble selling their low-key ads.

      I use Google for about 95% of my searches. They have two big advantages over everybody else: the most comprehensive index, and the best result-ranking scheme. But I do wish they'd support something more sophisticated than simple stemmed-keyword searches. In some ways Google is the least sophisticated of all the search engines.

      I especially miss Infoseek. Still have a T-shirt they sent me after I pointed out some glitches in their spam filters. It would have been nice if Infoseek had stayed out of Disney's clutches and avoided becoming a media-pimp portal. Damn, but we need some serious competition to keep Google from getting stuck in its successful rut. But in today's financial climate, the necessary development bucks are simply not there.

    • Google's strategy of providing a simple effective search engine has been a breath of fresh air in the industry and it's sucess has been incredible. Take a look at the latest audience reach ratings here []. The graph comparing Google to AltaVista is particularly startling. When AltaVista relaunched as a portal site in Nov 99 they initially gained users but as soon as Google appeared it has been dropping like a stone. No other search engine outside the major players (Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Lycos, Netscape) has managed to maintain it's position against Google and it is likely that Google will pass Netscape in the next few months. Even more impressive when you consider that this is only's market share and doesn't count hits from Yahoo or Google's international versions.
  • I stopped using AltaVista once the load time for the front page got over a few seconds. Google has a nice, quick to load, clean interface. Last time I looked, AV was slow, covered in excess garbage and ads, and made searching take far longer than necessary. The last straw was when it started creating popups asking me if I wanted to go to the UK version.
  • I hope they get it back in shape. Altavista has a few tricks up its sleeve that Google hasn't matched yet, like the ability to do an exact-string search. I find that looking up names is sometimes easier with an AltaVista search:

    +"Larry Wall" -"Perl"

    AltaVista also allows meta searches, like "which pages link to mine?" Google just doesn't have that. I use it for everything else, though.

    • Google can do all that stuff, and a bit more, it's just a different syntax, and it's THE spot to search Use(less)net, and the cache is an incredibly useful resource, including for seeing how the /. ministry of truth modifies things without notifying users when it makes them look bad (ooh, byebye karma!). For starters, try

      I wish search engines would update links like every 100th time somebody clicks on them, that way the popular sites would be refreshed often.
    • Try clicking the 'Advanced Search' link. Google does support these types of searches... On the advanced search page you can do exact-strings and filter on specific words, etc. It's all there.

      You can also do "Which pages link to mine?" searches off that page, or to do it quickly from the mainpage, enter (for example) ""
    • AltaVista also allows meta searches, like "which pages link to mine?" Google just doesn't have that. I use it for everything else, though.
      Since when didn't Google have this?

      Check this link out of pages linked to /. []

      Go look through Google's Advanced search options. You'll be surprised.

    • As far as the meta searches on "which pages link to mine?"

      Go to google. Type in a URL and then there should be a link that says, find pages that link to url.
  • by MSBob ( 307239 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:37PM (#2474277)
    Google's superiority can be asserted with a simple test. Search for "porn" on google and you get over 10,000,000 pages. The same search on altavista yields only just over 3,000,000 pages. No wonder everyone uses google.
  • by Morbid Curiosity ( 156888 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:41PM (#2474311)

    Altavista used to be my weapon of choice, too. But then I switched to Christopher Walken.
    Now I always have someone to talk to when I need to get results.

    I must admit, he does tend to make a bit of a song and dance about it, though.

    • here is a slightly slower alternative to altavista:
      HastaLaVista Searches []

      From the site: HastaLaVista receives over 12 million queries a day. As of last Thursday, we had responded to quite a few of them
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:42PM (#2474326) Homepage Journal
    The only advantage Alta Vista has over Google is proper Boolean search terms. If Google would get that, I'd drop Alta Vista from my bookmarks in a Planck Interval.

    However, the one thing that keeps me using Alta Vista can be demonstrated with this example:

    Earlier today, a co-worker and I were discussing []
    Signetic's ficticious write only memory .
    I wanted to see if anybody had ever put a copy of that data sheet up.

    Now, searching with Google and the terms Signetics "write only memory" gets me over 80 hits, the last 40 of which have NOTHING to do with my search at all - they just contain one or more of the words. Note the quotes - I was searching for the exact phrase "write only memory", a distinction lost upon Google.

    Now, searching on Alta Vista with Signetics near "write only memory" yeilds 57 hits, all of which are direct references to what I am looking for (most of which are mirrors of ESR's jargon file entry). Adding and not ("jargon file") neatly removes those, leaving 43 hits.

    Why cannot Google add boolean searching to their engine? Perhaps they could do an initial fetch as they do now, then refine it with a boolean search?
    • I don't know man, I searched for "write only memory" without the quotes, on Google, and the URL you provided was the very first hit.

      Maybe you are trying too hard to force Google to do what you want, when if you let it do it's magic, it would have known what you meant. :)

      (The first google page of results were all relevant, the second page was about 80% relevant, on the unquoted string)
      • Yes, but the URL I provided wasn't the one I was looking for. I was looking for a URL that might have had the original document as a PDF or a scan.

        My point was that, because I was unable to refine my search, Google took the most numerous link (the ESR link), and gave that to me.

        To complete my point, go try and find a PDF of the original document, or a scan. The only scan I could find was rather crufy and not quite what I was looking for, and I had to search the rest to determine that no cleaner version was to be found. Those extra 40 non-related links just wasted my time.
    • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:51PM (#2474394) Homepage Journal
      While I was composing my last post, several people pointed out Google's advanced search feature. Close, and thanks for pointing it out, but not quite as nice as Alta Vista's for one reason: Alta Vista allows me to type in my search phrase, while Google makes me split it up across several fields.

      Also, Google cannot handle searches like:

      (Signetics near ("Write Only Memory" or "write-only memory")) or ("dark emitting diode") or ("light emitting resistor")

      It's kind of like the difference between a GUI and a command line - Google's implementation is more like a GUI, while Alta Vista's is more like a command line.

      I am sure that for most folks, Google's advanced search is easier to understand, and that is an important design goal. However, I'd still like the full power of Alta Vista's boolean parser available to me as a power user. Perhaps Google could implement an extra field where folks like me could enter a complex boolean phrase.
      • Just a note... google considers "Write Only Memory" and "write-only memory" to be the same, so you don't need that "or" there.
      • What about + and -?? (Score:3, Informative)

        by alienmole ( 15522 )
        Forget the advanced search. Try using stragically placed + and - to force presence or absence of terms. E.g. the following:

        +Signetics +"write only memory" -antonym

        returns a bogus press release as it's first result, which may be what you're looking for. (I used "antonym" because many jargon file copies don't explicitly say they're from the jargon file.)

        I agree with the person who said you may be overspecifying your searches. The point is to find the stuff you want - as long as it lets you do that without much difficulty, does it really matter if you can't explicitly specify a true boolean search? You'd have to show me a case where Altavista really can find something that Google can't before I'd be convinced. All you've done is show that you weren't that familiar with Google.

          • Forget the advanced search. Try using stragically placed + and - to force presence or absence of terms.
          Google ignores the plus, since it considers all terms important in the query. It honours the minus, however, for exclusion. Please realize that Googles honours phrases for page ranking. So if you're searching for "write only memory", it sorts on proximity, so you'll get exact phrase hits first, and the lower-ranked results will list documents that merely contain the words "write", "only" and "memory".
        • I believe that Google's search mechanism came about as a direct response to the way AltaVista users tended to put + before every word. "No really, damn you, this is important."

          Google's use of +, though, is a bit screwy. If you put it before a non-stop word, it ignores all your +'s. So in order to search for a phrase including stop words, you have to search once for the phrase, let it tell you which words it didn't search, and then put a + before those and search again. Luckily, I don't have to search for "+to +be +or not +to +be" very often.
      • Your example doesn't seem to have a problem on Google. I typed in write only memory and found the correct link as the first in the list.

        Google does take some getting used to -- the mental heuristic I use is, "what would most people type if they wanted to find the result that I'm looking for.." This technique gives me excellent results.

        Google is "too smart" for the kind of boolean searches that you discuss. The power behind Google is its ability to correlate a search phrase with pages that are selected first from the result set, while initially ordering pages based on the number of times they are linked to.

      • Google cannot handle searches like

        (Signetics near ("Write Only Memory" or "write-only memory")) or ("dark emitting diode") or ("light emitting resistor")

        I'd just do three searches:
        1. Signetics "write only memory"
        2. Dark emitting diode
        3. Light emitting resistor
        I'd split the search into three searches even if I was using Altavista, because with separate searches I can tell if one of my search terms is giving irrelevant results, and I can learn which terms give no hits at all. The only thing Google doesn't give you from your example is the "near" operator, which isn't really a boolean operator.

        The OR operator only gives you an advantage if several of your search terms have alternate spellings: (crash and (find or search) and (close or cancel)). I often use that kind of search when I'm looking for known Mozilla bugs in bugzilla, but I rarely need to use queries that complex when searching the web.
    • Check Google's help page [] and check the Basics of Search and Advanced Search Tips links for information on operators, related searches and other things along the lines you're talking about.

    • by TheTomcat ( 53158 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:57PM (#2474437) Homepage

      is the proper way to search for "write only memory" on google.
    • Search for "write only memory" scan [], click on the first result, search the page for "Scan", click on that link. Voila.
    • ...gets me over 80 hits, the last 40 of which have NOTHING to do with my search at all...
      Why in the world would you care about the last 40 hits?
  • by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:43PM (#2474334) Journal

    (early google beta days) I felt kinda like a pioneer that had stumbled on a secret pile of gold with Google....Now everyone in the office and the home front swears by google and uses nothing else. This is a perfect example of totally burying the competition in the dirt and then rolling over them....Cheers to Google...If a few more small things would have been in place -- you would have seen Linux doing the same to Windows.....(Imagine if todays Mozilla would have been around when IE4 was new....)
    Strike early, strike!
  • I gave up when they dropped their Usenet archives (which google then dropped intot that rolw in a timely manner). Though I still went back occasionally when google couldn't search on the angle I wanted. Then they added some stuff that made the page refresh after every x seconds. Well, on dial on demand dialup, that sucks. So I started avoiding them. Now I'm no longer on dialup but I just avoid them out of habit.

    You know, altavista used to publish the date that the pages they search were last indexed at the bottom of each search link. They dropped that off about six months ago. None of the dates were showing up as being 2001. I noticed that search for a page for a site I had updated about three months ago was still showing the previous data.

    yup, altavista sucks.


  • Whilst I still used Windows at home, I have to say that the google toolbar has to be the most excellent search aid that I ever installed. Type any word into it, and you could choose to either search for them or (and this was the best bit) highlight EVERY occurance of the word on whichever page you happened to be on, just like when you look in the google cache.

    Very useful for skim-reading pages to find relevant information, even if it isn't the page that you searched for originally
  • Excite sucks too. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scott1853 ( 194884 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:44PM (#2474345)
    Redid website on 7/9/2001, Excite hasn't picked up the changes yet.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:46PM (#2474358)
    The old search engines are going to be dead soon. They are flailing away the water of the net, throwing out random links that make no sense, selling off search results to try and keep afloat. Google has taken the net by storm, even my grandmother and little sister use it. Microsoft and AOL try to lure people in with their wretched search engines, but people quickly realize that those are just ill-concieved marketing tools of little real worth. Webmasters all over are abandoning internal search engines for their sites, instead paying Google to do it for them. Yahoo has gone from the king of all search engines to a portal for sex chats, and a messaging client quickly losing its own little war.

    Google is the king of all search engines. It is clean and pure, without the convoluted portal structure that has wrecked the others. Bow before Google, beg it to bestow upon you its collection of wisdom, and love it for being so great.
    • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @05:31PM (#2474601)
      I performed a search on AltaVista and got distracted and left the window open. After some time the browser automatically refreshed. I looked in the source and found:

      <meta HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT=300>

      What's up with this?? Why are they refreshing my results every 5 minutes if they haven't updated their index in 3 months?

    • Monopoly anyone ? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mbyte ( 65875 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @07:26PM (#2475088) Homepage
      I totally agree that google wipes out *any* competition. However .. what happents when the cometition is gone ? will google still play that nice as it does now ? will it leverage its monopoly ? Am i the only one who is afraid of that ?

      • Monopoly? I have mixed feelings about that concept, mainly because I am not so sure that being the only worthwhile searchengine really constitues a monopoly. When I stated that other search engines are dead/dying, I mean it figuratively, in that these search engines will get much less use over time, eventually becoming somewhat irrelevant. I think that MSN and AOL will hang around (Especially with the shutdown of all the other portals, and they will likely get a huge boost once Yahoo! finally dies.) for a very long time, so google will always have to strive to stay on top.
  • Left behind (Score:4, Informative)

    by maniac11 ( 88495 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @04:46PM (#2474361) Homepage Journal
    Alta Vista has certainly been an innovator in its day... and was by far the best search engine until Google.

    They were the first [] to have a searchable full-text database and asian character sets (Chinese, Korean, Japanese).

    Don't forget about Babel Fish [] either... seems like this alone would be enough to keep them alive...

    Ah well, wish them luck in a very difficult market.
  • Sullivan called the company's inability to update search results "inexcusable" and said it feeds suspicions that paid listings take priority over generic search results. "This is something people have been paranoid about. If you're going to start charging people to submit, does that mean Web sites that can't afford to pay will get overlooked?"

    Gee, I wonder? I think it's common knowlege that those who pay to be listed are given priority to those who don't, otherwise there would be no motivation to pay. It's economics, plain and simple. I haven't read through the fine print of the Alta Vista usage policy but I'm pretty sure they outline the priority system there. I would be rather surprised if a search engine company charged people for their listings and then didn't give the paying customers some sort of benefit. On the other hand, just because someone doesn't pay doesn't mean they will be overlooked, but they will not get massive amounts of traffic based on their Alta Vista listing. Someone who's semi-comfortable using the search engine will probably construct powerful enough searches that if you're site has what they want, they will see it in their list of matches, probably somewhere close to the top. If someone has the same material on their site and they pay, theirs will be one above yours, and that's the way it should be.

    It really is a shame that Alta Vista is getting lazy updating their free listings though, they have a great search tool and I like a lot of their functions, but it is outdated information and like the author I end up using Google most of the time.
  • "We are unfortunately just behind schedule. We know that all of this is imperative. Within the next weeks we will be back to the most updated index." She added that the company has "crawled" the Web pages across the Internet but has not updated the index as of yet.

    Umm... isn't the very core of your purpose to update listings? And you haven't updated non-commercial listings since JULY? Whoever is managing this engine has entirely lost sight of what they need to be doing. Meanwhile google does a hell of a job giving web users what they want, without tons of rather deceitful advertising and gook all over the interface. (of course Google has advertising, but it is clearly deliniated, off to the side, and does not overwhelm true results) Altavista, of course, needs to get their act together or risk collapse.

  • Babelfish! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mikeboone ( 163222 )
    The only reason I go to the domain these days is for the Babelfish [].

    So I hope the AV search engine will still prosper to some degree, so that the whole business doesn't tank and they take the Babelfish with it.
  • Altavista did have a few good strong points...their search features were excellent, letting users form complex queries just short of regular expressions...

    In Google, when you search for a phrase, it tells you half the words are two common, and then gives you the rest out of order.

  • What turned me off of Altavista was when the news hit that they were selling the top 10 results for certain searches to companies for advertising purposes. I noticed it seemed to be true, and when I do a search I'm usually NOT looking for a company's webpage.

    Around the same time I heard about a new search engine with a more comprehensive search, caching, and a light interface. I was hooked.

    I do miss boolean searching, but Google's targeted-text ads are way better than Altavista's destroy-the-entire-usefulness-of-the-search-engine wholesale-whoring-out-their-service-to-corporate-p imps advertisements.

    • What turned me off of Altavista was when the news hit that they were selling the top 10 results for certain searches to companies for advertising purposes. I noticed it seemed to be true, and when I do a search I'm usually NOT looking for a company's webpage.

      Ah, but Google has ads in the latest issues of Fortune where they are selling the same thing.

      Sad, but true.

  • This is just another moral to the same old story.
    The VCs will push you into doing ANYTHING, follow
    any short term, well hyped, strategy to try to make a 0.01% better ROI for this quarter.

    You can't build a company that is profitable in the long run by changing directions every quarter. This is especially true in technology based businesses where more than half of the total value of the company is the team and not physical assets.

  • Here's a personal list of why I think Google rules:
    • Lightning-fast searches. I like how Google rubs it in, too ("search took 0.14 seconds").
    • Windows IE toolbar. The most convenient way to search, which includes other neat features like page rank, easy keyword highlighting, etc.
    • Good Usenet listing.
    • Result translations (someone's already mentioned Swedish Chef, hehe)
    • Web Directory has won me over, goodbye Yahoo!
    • Almost every single search I've done on Google has given me the most relevant results on the first page. I hardly need to see any further result pages unless my search is obscure or vague.
    • Uses very little bandwidth (read: advertising)
    It seems like a one-sided battle now. There's just no comparison.
  • Ok, so it's a minor plug, but as my sig says, I run Gbloogle [] from an old machine under my desk. It's a weblog search engine that updates its index every three hours.

    Now, apart from the plug (and this being slashdot, and me paying for the bandwidth, gawd knows why I did that), I point this out because even Google only updates every four weeks or so.

    For some subjects (and the memes and odd sites you find via blogs are good examples) the specialist search engines are going to become very useful. Things like Distributed Searching, JXTA and so on are the way forward when the web is double the size it is today, and then double again.

  • One Google Gripe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @05:01PM (#2474456) Homepage
    Yes, Google is far and away the best, but it's habit of ignoring common words, even in exact phrase matches, is annoying. "death to infidels" become a search for "death" and "infidels", you have to type "death +to infidels"

    Also, I'm a little worried about everyone becoming dependent on one resource like this. Admittedly they seem to have a knack for figuring out the Right Thing, but monoculture is never a great idea in the modern world.
    • About the whole "one resource" thing... Before Google arrived on the scene and proved its worth, weren't most of the geek crowd relying on Altavista?

      If Google ever slows their pace of innovation, or someone else figures out a way to make more extensive catalogs of the internet, won't we just move on? Build a better mouse trap, and the world will beat a path to your door.

      Or something like that.
      • Actually I used Yahoo. (which I think at the time was set to fallback to AltaVista) For a while, Yahoo has a built-in "value add", as any of its links were added by someone's reccommendation, and where therefore somewhat less likely to come up as 404s and be more ontopic than the keyword searches of the day. Google's Algorithm blew that out of the water. I haven't done much with its Category system either...
    • That's why it's far and away the best.

      Huh? You ask?

      It's really far and away the best because it's quick and does make solid hits on most of your search term. It does this because its search is less complicated and bogs down less in niggling things like getting the best hits on your whole search term. It's pages are also an order of magnitude less complicated. Need to expand on a meme fast? Google's snappy, let's go there.

      McDonald's food sucks, you say, but you eat there from 1 to 90 times a month. How often do you get to Pappadeaux, or Morton's, or somewhere else where the food is gorgeous, but takes longer, and effectively costs more time (both waiting and $$=your former work hours) per unit goodness.

      "The price of freedom is that you get the freedom you price."
  • I love google as most of you do, but I do have a question. It's right to say that not updating your index in a long time makes your results useless, but what do we have to compare Altavista to? How often is Google updated, and how does it keep up to an ever increasing number of pages? Just curious.
  • AltaVista, once known as a premier search provider among Internet cognoscenti,

    Internet cognoscenti? Who is getting blown here, the writer, wired, or the reader? All three?

    Cognoscenti must be the offspring of the Digerati, who begat Shem.
  • I used to use AltaVista all the time, but now I use Google. Since AltaVista was severed from it's hardware base, DEC, it has gone downhill. Also, I think the editorial descision to include paying customers as part of the results rather than as separate adds like Google does also make me less likly to use AltaVista.

  • I should point out that, while Google is great and my personal choice, we should all be aware that they're running ads in Fortune advertising how companies can get "their words" (two line ads) in the search engine results.

    I'm quite serious.

    I'll still use it, cause it is better, but it's not all that you think it is.

    • WillSeattle typed: I should point out that, while Google is great and my personal choice, we should all be aware that they're running ads in Fortune advertising how companies can get "their words" (two line ads) in the search engine results.

      If you check the Google site, you'll notice that the advertising links are clearly marked... Yahoo and most other search/index sites do the same thing. If it helps them to continue offering high-quality service, I don't mind.

      While we're on the subject... Has anyone else noticed that Google now includes PDF files in its searching? It indexes the content of the files and even lets you view them as plaintext. That's the best thing since bread came sliced, IMO.

  • shorter name? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Wednesday October 24, 2001 @05:21PM (#2474547) Homepage
    The article points out that they tried to go up against AOL and Yahoo. Might they have lost viewers simply because they're name is too long to bother typing? is easy to type, as is, etc.
    • Re:shorter name? (Score:3, Informative)

      by big.ears ( 136789 )
      Try []. Its short, sweet, easy to remember, and just as useless as
    • The article points out that they tried to go up against AOL and Yahoo. Might they have lost viewers simply because they're name is too long to bother typing? is easy to type, as is, etc. (pretty short) takes you to altavista. A whois says the record was created oct. 1998.
      No, I dont believe that was the problem.
      I did like altavista very much, and unlike google, it did have a good /powerfull "query language".
      But they kept loading banners and crap on their frontpage, and the site became very, very sluggish.
      And then came google. Google is really what killed altavista: google was extremely fast, and very slick and simple. Their approach to searching really was something new, and they knew how to make money too, without bothering its users ("portals" was the money making hype at that time).

      In the beginning, google hadn't indexed so many pages. A search on av, could often give better /more results. But I simply stopped bothering; if it isn't on google or, I don't really care.
  • I, too, considered Alta Vista the best search engine until, when was that?, summer of 1999 when a friend pointed me to Google.

    Google was so vastly superior that I quickly stopped using anything else except Northern Light for special searches.

    I recall the graphical search aid AltaVista experimented with -- which was pretty useful once I learned the tricks. It was necessary to sort through the false hits generated by the "keyword" matching algorithm. Google, however, didn't need such a trick since it used the power of the Internet as its relevancy filter. Now, I'm so used to finding exactly what I want I can't imagine using a different method.

    Here's the lesson: better service, better value beats "loyalty" and "branding" with discerning customers.

  • by Dracos ( 107777 )

    Like many here, I too used to use altaVista religiously. Then came the portal debacle. Then the pop up ads. Then the meta-refresh. Then, all of a sudden I couldn't find the seach input. You are a search engine, therefore the only thing I care about on your page is the input and the results.. The usage numbers verify this statement.

    The beauty of Google is that it has none of these.

    A weird side effect is that if you search Altavista for "google" [], good luck trying to find out how big a number it is...unless you follow the link that Altavista figures out for you.

  • I never use any other search angines than google anymore.

    In order to reach popularity, the url for a site has to be really short. In the beginning, to use altavista, you had to type,
    way too much. In those days I used hotbot (inktomi/wired) for searches, and whenever I drew a blank I would go to altavista.

    When google came around, there was no need to use another site, since google is comprehensive, short to type, almost free from clutter, and the results seems to have fewer duplicates and irrelevant info.

    I also remember not too long ago another search engine, with a horribly long name. Northernlight or something like that. What were they thinking?

    Moral is:
    get a REALLY short domain name, and deliver a good product and people will come. Fail on any of these 2 requirements, and you're a fucked company. It doen't matter how good your search engine is, if I have to type

    I only bookmark specific information, not home pages.
    • In order to reach popularity, the url for a site has to be really short.

      Bullshit. On the contrary, your way of thinking LEADS to fucked companies. Short domain names have nothing to do with success. Need I go on?

      Moral is:
      get a REALLY short domain name, and deliver a good product and people will come. Fail on any of these 2 requirements, and you're a fucked company.

      Wrong. Simply wrong. The aftermath of the internet bubble is littered with the carcasses of companies with excellent product, short easy name, high visibility and well-known among the public, and a fucked up business plan. Netscape comes immediately to mind....
    • Re:Name too long (Score:2, Informative)

      by glenmark ( 446320 )
      I also remember not too long ago another search engine, with a horribly long name. Northernlight or something like that. What were they thinking?

      Northernlight can also be reached at []. Most comprehensive search engine on the web.

  • I'm not sure it is a widely known feature (I just discovered it recently), but I've grown pretty fond of []. A normal search engine will rarely spider a news site quickly enough to be of use for the searches of the sort "there is a news story on the radio, let me go to the net and find out what they are really talking about" variety. Does anyone other than altavista offer a search engine of this sort?

  • "AltaVista was my weapon of choice until Google came along and was so much better that most net users jumped ship...

    Ditto to that. What made me change was all the "noise" and "junk" AV continually added to their search engine. Recently, I went back there to translate a page to English ...whammo, I get hit by one of those X-10 ads.

    If AV were smart, they'd leverage Bablefish and other useful tools to win users back. Instead, while they've tried to become more like Yahoo, they've given their competitor (google) time to implement image and usenet searches.

    Someone needs to slap their CIO with a dose of reality.
  • This may be a little redundant, but the + and - are far better than the AND and OR used by Altavista.

    With the + and - you get AND, OR, NOT, and MAYBE.

    Google treats multiple words as OR conditions and also uses them as context indicators.

    searching for THIS THAT will find things that have "THIS" or "THAT" or "THIS THAT". Pages where the words are closer together become more relavent. (The OR condition)

    searching for +THIS +THAT is the same as saying "THIS and THAT" on AltaVista. Pages won't be returned unless both words appear on the page. (The AND condition)

    searching for THIS +THAT is saying search for THAT, and if it has THIS, then include it as well (Thats the MAYBE condition ).

    searching for THIS -THAT means return pages that have THIS on them, but do not include any pages that have THAT in them. (The NOT condition)

    As you can see, it lends itself to some very powerful searches with very simple syntax. A far better solution than AND and OR IMHO.

  • If only Google would put those cool pop-up ads on their site! That is the only reason I use AltaVista.
  • AltaVista was my weapon of choice until Google came along and was so much better that most net users jumped ship.

    From my point of view it wasn't that Google got better, but AltaVista, particularly the Advanced Search, got worse due to AltaVista doing the most idiotic things. AltaVista simply doesn't work right anymore. Presumably they let the work experience coders screw around with the algorithms. The Advanced seach, which I would probably still be using if it hadn't changed, no longer gives correct results for boolean expressions. Some of the pages it comes up with have no relevance whatsoever to the boolean search you type in.

    IMHO the strength of AltaVista's boolean searching was the strength of AltaVista - with that gone, it was a foregone conclusion that the whole thing would come tumbling down.

  • Is it just me, or has no-one mentioned [] It can be useful to add linux to all your searches automagically, and you do get a groovy tux in the google logo to boot.
  • Keep on killing AltaVista, and then when they get really desperate, pick up Babelfish for a song!

    Now that they've got Deja under their umbrella, Babelfish is all Google needs to be...

    Best.... Search Engine.... Ever!

  • Yes, old indexes are bad, but Altavista has another, rather more serious problem: it doesn't yield very useful searches, because it's susceptible to spamming. Of course, if you never tried anything better than Altavista, you are used to roommage among the junk an Altavista search produces, but I am now spoiled: Google is so much better at filtering out the stupid porn sites. Also, Google is able (with some magic or AI) to sort the pages by actual relevance: I usually find spot on the first page Google finds. With Altavista, that's almost never the case.

    Google spoled me so badly that I now avoid by all means using any other search engine, it's THE standard by which I judge all the other search systems. Altavista doesn't come close.

  • Altavista was the first powerful internet crawler and indexation engine. There were some other (Yahoo...) but most submission were manual, and AV had far more entries when it was launched.
    I can remember, some times ago, when ports 80 of all my subnet were scanned by a machine from ... Like many other sysadmin, I wrote to to complain... 2 months later, AV was born.
    Sure, today, AV can't compete with Google. I'm not especially talking about the search engine itself. But AV web pages are bloated by tons of ads, and it's really lousy to use nowadays.
    But maybe internet would never had a lot of powerful engine without AV. It was the seed (and it saved Digital, too... without this fantastic demo, Digital was about to go bankrupt) .
    This is just like Netscape. Nowadays, everyone says that Netscape sucks, and that their browser is a crappy bugs collection. True. But with its so criticized "proprietary" HTML extensions, Netscape made web pages way better than before. Remember how ugly were Chimera and Mosaic? Remember how Netscape 3 kicked ass? And who introduced Javascript and Java first?
    So, even if some companies/services have been obsoleted by their competitors, we should thank them for what the piece of technology they brang to everyone, and we should give them eternal respect.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.