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- Alta Vista (with a space) redirects here. For other uses see Alta Vista (disambiguation)
The name AltaVista refers both to an Internet search engine company and to that company's search engine product.
Launched on December 15, 1995 at http://altavista.digital.com AltaVista was misunderstood by its parent company. Digital Equipment Corporation, a hardware company, missed the potential of the Internet and instead rationalized that AltaVista would be a showcase for its new line of servers.
At launch the service had two innovations that set it ahead of the other search engines. It used a fast multi-threaded crawler (Scooter) that could cover a lot more Web pages than were believed to exist, and an efficient search back-end running on advanced hardware with many gigabytes of memory. These made AltaVista the first searchable, full-text database of a large part of the World Wide Web.
In 1996, AltaVista became the exclusive provider of search results for Yahoo!. In 1998, Digital was sold to Compaq, and in 1999 Compaq relaunched AltaVista as a web portal, abandoning their streamlined searchpage and alienating their core userbase. In June of the same year, Compaq paid AltaVista Technology Incorporated ("ATI")US$ 3.3 million for the domain name altavista.com (Jack Marshall, cofounder of ATI, had registered the name in 1994,) but it continued to lose marketshare, especially to Google. It was subsequently floated from Compaq as an independent company.
In February 2003, AltaVista was bought by Overture Services, Inc. The failed attempt at a "portal" was dropped and the website was again revamped to provide simple search functions. In March 2004, Overture itself was taken over by Yahoo!. In Aug. 2004, shortly after Yahoo!'s acquisition, the AltaVista site started using the Yahoo! Search database.
AltaVista was also one of the numerous websites which promised "free email for life", only to subsequently reverse this policy by charging a subscription fee for its email services.
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