Yahoo! Finally Shutting AltaVista Down on July 8

Jay Rossiter, the vice president in charge of Yahoo's platforms, issued a memo on Friday revealing the platforms the company plans to nuke in the next several months. The list includes twelve services that will be discontinued between June 28 and September 28 consisting of Yahoo! Axis, Yahoo! Browser Plus, Citizen Sports, Yahoo! WebPlayer and more. Long-time Internet resident AltaVista is also on the chopping block.

"Earlier this year, we announced an ongoing effort to sharpen our focus and deliver experiences that enhance your daily lives," he said. "As part of that, today we’re shutting down a few products so we can continue to focus on creating beautiful products that are essential to you every day."

The death of AltaVista on July 8 is both sad and unsurprising. The search engine launched in December 1995, and competed against Yahoo, Lycos, Excite and others in the late 90's until Google began eating market share. Overture Services purchased AltaVista back in 2003 who in turn was taken over by Yahoo! All searches initially made on AltaVista now end up on the Yahoo! website.

At its peak, AltaVista search results were somehow uniquely different than the other search engines, making it a great compliment to the more popular and commercialized Yahoo! It 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. The name stemmed from the company's location at Palo Alto.

AltaVista's Wikipedia listing reports that it became the exclusive provider of search results for Yahoo! in 1998. Then in 1999, Digital was sold to Compaq who in turn redesigned AltaVista to be a web portal, ditching the single search input box. A majority stake of AltaVista was then sold to an internet investment company who planned to offer an IPO in 2000. But the Internet financial "Dot-com" bubble collapsed and the IPO was canceled.

Eventually Google began to heat up the search engine wars and AltaVista ditched the web portal aspects to focus primarily on search, unable to compete. AltaVista was back in its prime in 2002 with a redesigned user interface and improved search results. However AltaVista was bought by Overture Services in 2003, and seemingly faded into Internet history.

In its early years, AltaVista reportedly had innovations that were ahead of the competition including a fast, multi-threaded crawler named "Scooter", and an efficient search-running back-end on advanced hardware. By 1998, AltaVista was using 20 multi-processor machines using DEC's 64-bit Alpha processor, and were receiving 13 million search queries a day. This reportedly made AltaVista the very first searchable, full-text database of a large part of the Internet.

AltaVista reportedly began with 300,000 hits on the first day to more than 80 million hits per day two years later. AltaVista's demise was revealed in PowerPoint slides leaked in 2010, and the service began shutting down in May 2011. Since then, all results are now returned to Yahoo's page instead.

Astalavista, AltaVista. We loved you.

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  • So long AltaVista... you were my favorite search engine of the '90s!
  • What the hell is AltaVista?
  • What the hell is AltaVista?