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How to Use AltaVista - then say GoodBye  (View post)

Search Engines [PersonRank 3]

Monday, January 2, 2006
18 years ago

Where you prompted by this post...

No-one seems to know the answer –


   – Altavista was king of the Serious Search around 1998 – 1999, lots of Spam, but Searchers did NOT mind going to page 2 or 3 because the answers WOULD be found, just learn those BoLean operators...

   – But around 1999 – one day there was a COMPLETE change in Algorithms – then suddenly Altavista was just like Lycos, Excite, AOL, in terms of relevancy....

Yahoo was fun – and VERY popular – but for students and casual consumer surfers...

   – Around late 1999 – Dopile seemed like the possible answer for Techies and Researchers...

   – Around Early 2000 – AllTheWeb – seemed like the possible answer...

   – Around Mid 2000 – Google jumped Dramatically in relevancy and was on the level of AllTheWeb
So, Techies/Researchers used them both...

   – Around Mid 2001 – Google improved Dramatically enough to be the single Search answer...

   – Around 2003 to early 2004 Google appeared to be at its Peak in relevancy – the the highly dramatic updates started a slow decline ...
while Yahoo, MSN and ASK becomes more relevant...

C Williams [PersonRank 0]

18 years ago #

I have been reading a book on google and how they got where they got. A very nice insight. Hence I found your webpage. (blog)

Idiot [PersonRank 1]

18 years ago #

I must admit I still find AV useful for audio/video search (I do know about alternatives)

P. Bragg [PersonRank 0]

18 years ago #

Your oldest screenshot of Altavista is from Altavista Technology inc. That wasn't "Altavista the search engine" They revised their homepage with this message in 1997:

AltaVista Technology, Inc. is not affiliated with Digital Equipment Corporation, AltaVista Internet Software, Inc. or the AltaVista Internet Search Service. The AltaVista Internet Search Service may be found at

In 1997 Altavista the search engine had an even more Google-like front page which you can find on under the original domain, almost looking like an example of current web design.

Gary Price [PersonRank 10]

18 years ago #

If you're interested in Web Search History, this compilation I put together in 2001 includes direct links to many early announcements from web engines. It includes a link to the first press release announcing AltaVista from December 15, 2001.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

18 years ago #

"In order to spell-check a word in AltaVista, you had to compare the page-count of different spellings you’d enter manually (today, of course, you can simply rely on Google’s spellchecker)."

It's probably worth noting that you can't *always* rely on Google’s spellchecker. Take the word "barbecue" for example. Google will return results for both [barbecue] (~14,100,000) and [barbeque] (~8,050,000) without suggesting the correct spelling. Furthermore, entering [barbecu] will suggest "Did you mean: barbecue" whereas [barbequ] suggests "Did you mean: barbeque".

However, it only displays a definition for [barbecue] – so does this mean that's the correct spelling of the word?

(BBQ returns ~17,900,000 results, so I'm guessing most people can't figure it out either and opt for the easy option.)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

18 years ago #

I'm sometimes spellchecking by checking if the word is linked to on the SERPs. If it is, it must be in the dictionary, so it must be correct. If it's not linked, then of course I don't have a final answer but it is likely I mispelled something. Other than that I use the Google Toolbar's spellchecker.

aak [PersonRank 0]

18 years ago #

the one advantage to altavista is their mp3/audio search. I used altavista then and still now. And just google when I have to.

tom [PersonRank 0]

18 years ago #

I remember AVs last ad campaign, something like "knowledge is beautiful" and I made a parody page: --only the "Search" link works, but try it and find truth on the Internet.....I still use AV for mp3 searches and to get to Babelfish.

Angie [PersonRank 0]

18 years ago #

Thank you! |

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

18 years ago #

In my opinion, Google overtook AltaVista because of Google's PageRank, Google's default boolean operator of "AND", and Google's usable snippets:

The "Search Engine Roundtable" blog post referenced at the top of this forum thread refers to AltaVista changing their algorithms in 1999. I think this was an algorithm change to counter meta-tag spam which was by then clogging up the AltaVista results, but that's not what killed AltaVista. Google killed AltaVista.

AltaVista later "shot themselves in the foot" by turning into a portal and by dropping the only features that they had but Google didn't (matching on word prefixes, ability to make a search case-sensitive, and the NEAR operator). But by then Google had taken the crown anyway so it didn't really make any difference.

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