AltaVista was a pioneer in web search engine technology, the first tool to index full-text content of web pages, and one of the very first web search engines to gain significant popularity in the emerging web search engine industry. It was launched on December 15, 1995, by Digital Equipment Corporation. AltaVista’s original URL was altavista.digital.com, and it was named after the scenic views in Palo Alto, California, where Digital was headquartered.
Google's search engine finally surpassed AltaVista in usage in 2001, and Yahoo! purchased AltaVista in 2003. Yahoo! discontinued the AltaVista search engine in July 2013. While the altavista.com URL still exists, it redirects all users to the Yahoo! search engine.
Louis Monier, a computer scientist at Digital’s Western Research Lab, created the web crawler tool called Scooter. Scooter completed its first complete web crawl in August 1995, returning around 10 million pages to the primitive AltaVista index. Paul Flaherty is credited with coming up with the idea for AltaVista, while Michael Burrows is credited with writing the indexer.
The search engine was tested internally at Digital by its 10,000-plus employees and subsequentially released to the public on December 15, 1995. The site had over 300,000 visitors on the day it launched. Two years later, it had approximately 80 million visitors a day. In 1997, the first free online translator, Babel Fish, became part of AltaVista.
AltaVista was known for its simple interface and was the eleventh-most-visited site on the web in both 1998 and 2000. In 2000, seventeen percent of all web users visited the site every week, while Google only garnered seven percent. However, by the next year, Google overtook AltaVista in popularity.
In 2003, Overture bought the site for $140 million, with Yahoo! subsequently acquiring Overture later that year. In July 2013, Yahoo! discontinued the AltaVista search engine.
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Keeping our Focus on What's Next
So farewell then, AltaVista, we hardly knew ye ...
July 3, 2013