Altavista to become only search engine
January 18, 2001 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Altavista to become only search engine
Not really, but they do plan on enforcing several search-related patents that they have, hoping to increase revenue by extorting other search companies. "We believe that virtually everyone out there who indexes the Web is in violation of at least several of those key patents.... If you index a distributed set of databases - what the Internet is - and even within intranets, corporations, that's one of the patents," says CMGI CEO David Wetherell.
posted by daveadams (25 comments total)
AltaVista really sucks. I mean, just on every conceivable level. They suck. This just makes me feel that they super-suck. They're going to have to sue everybody for revenue, cause they suck so bad I can't image that they'd ever make money any other way.
posted by Doug at 1:35 PM on January 18, 2001

I wonder just how much revenue AV will be able to generate if everyone boycotts them and uses a good engine such as Google or TopClick.

I haven't used AV in years. Just doesn't produce good results.
posted by terrapin at 1:42 PM on January 18, 2001

I still remember the day AV launched - it was just amazing how great it was at the time. But it seemingly hasn't improved, because now it's not even in the running, and to boot it's a pain in the ass with all the portal junk around it. I guess a lot of others feel the same way, given their obvious desperation.
posted by mikel at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2001

I miss the days when I would show someone Altavista and watch them freak out over how smart and powerful it was. Much the same way they do when I show them Google now.

Altavista does have a (what I believe to be) unique image search function, and I still use it for that nearly everyday. I hope they can survive without destroying some of their technically superior competitors.
posted by thirteen at 1:45 PM on January 18, 2001

thirteen, thanks for the tip on Altavista's image search function. I haven't been to the Altavista site for so long, that I wasn't even aware of it! It just pulled up (quickly, too) a nice set of harpsichord images. I love google for my search engine needs. It's page is clear of all sorts of drek that most other search engines have, plus it's super fast. terrapin, thanks for the tip on TopClick as well. Another fast (and uncluttered) search engine.
posted by doublehelix at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2001

Yeah, thirteen. It seems like just yesterday that Altavista was the elite awesome search engine, and WebCrawler were the bad guys. Now it's like the same but Google has taken the spot.

To note though, I still use Altavista's translator thing sometimes. But there's probably a better one out there somewhere, I just haven't bothered to look.
posted by swank6 at 2:10 PM on January 18, 2001

Does Topclick use Google's algorithms or something?

For example: go to and search for "metafilter". You will find the exact same results as here:

What's up with that?

Side note: in the search results above I discovered a page with MetaFilter anagrams. My fave: AT FIRE MELT

posted by ericost at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2001

Another law suit. Wow. Slowly everyone will sue each other and it will all work out. Or we will realize that the laws are old should be re-thought.
Thats just my $0.02
posted by bytecode at 2:18 PM on January 18, 2001

We used to get a kick out of using the Altavista translation tool to translate an english phrase to say, french, then take the french translation and translate it back into english. It was pretty darn funny.
posted by doublehelix at 2:20 PM on January 18, 2001

Patent litigation is a modern patriotism: the last refuge of a scoundrel.
posted by holgate at 2:28 PM on January 18, 2001

Yes, TopClick is powered by Google.
posted by shinybeast at 2:30 PM on January 18, 2001

It's no secret that search engines (like Google) license out their results. Search on Yahoo. (They ditched Altavista for Google last year!)

Some, like Inktomi, exist solely as back-ends.
posted by dhartung at 2:37 PM on January 18, 2001

posted by PWA_BadBoy at 2:44 PM on January 18, 2001

I'm pretty sure, in my mind, that AV went down the tubes after they were shipped off of Digital. Then there was that whole "We're like Yahoo!, but with a great search engine" phase... which I think they're still in. I'm sorry, but a search engine is not a destination site.

Remember Raging Search, their answer to Google? It's got a nifty swirling logo and everything.
posted by hijinx at 2:55 PM on January 18, 2001

How exactly does that search engine licensing work? It kinda seems pointless to have Google, and also have a TopClick which is like the same thing as Google.

Ok, as I'm typing this I read this policy stuff on TopClick, apparently TopClick uses a common protocol to query the Google search with their own servers, so Google doesn't cookie you.
posted by swank6 at 3:21 PM on January 18, 2001

Yeah, Raging is decent, in that it uses altavista's index but it isn't stupid.

FAST ( does some good stuff, too. Their main web search is, and they also have a multimedia search engine (like altavista), mp3 search, ftp search, etc., all linked from there.

I do miss the good ol' days, though. Altavista didn't even have it's own domain name, webcrawler sucked, and it took 1337 skillz to find anything on the 'net...
posted by whatnotever at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2001

We were accustomed to make with leave per blow-of-foot to use the tool for the translation of Altavista to translate an English expression for saying, French, then take the French translation and we still let translate it into English. It was pretty darn funny. (announced by the double spiral with 2:20 P.M. PST January 18)
posted by pixelpony at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2001

Lycos also has a good image-search function:

It's interesting to picture a future with one monolithic search engine that everyone uses, and the rest are outlawed. There'd be a bunch of scattered illegal search engines with better material and algorithms. It'd be like pirate radio...
posted by JimmyTones at 3:49 PM on January 18, 2001

More anagram fun:






posted by lagado at 4:54 PM on January 18, 2001

It's actually pretty easy to integrate google into your site (I don't know if they know this is public or not).


It would be very easy to pass queries to google's xml interface from your site, and then parse the results back to html (notice how instantaneous the xml call is).
posted by mathowie at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2001

Matt's XML link corrected:

(too cool, btw)
posted by ericost at 7:56 PM on January 18, 2001

What I don't get: everyone I know uses Altavista's translation function. So why is it such a tiny buried link on their front page? Why wouldn't they make that useful feature more prominent?

I didn't even know they had an image search capability, but with their crammed front page design, I guess that's no surprise really.
posted by wiremommy at 8:30 PM on January 18, 2001

That XML thang is really cool. I had no idea Internet Explorer would parse and syntax-color it (I saw it requesting the DTD from Google as well, sweet).

What I don't get: everyone I know uses Altavista's translation function. So why is it such a tiny buried link on their front page? Why wouldn't they make that useful feature more prominent?

It's highly prominent at, which is traditionally where you go if you want the service. One of the many hundreds of URLs you just memorize if you use the Web at all...
posted by kindall at 9:27 PM on January 18, 2001

swank, obviously to you and I Google is Google. To Topclick, Google is a way to add value to their portal (useful, inane, no opinion here -- haven't seen it). To Google, Topclick is a way to actually make money.

Like Yahoo, there's nothing saying that the licensor can't frame or parse the results as they see fit. Yahoo shows you waht it finds in its directory, first, IF anything -- THEN the Google results. It's an added value for them. The users like it because they get the best of both worlds, two searches in one. Etc.
posted by dhartung at 10:49 PM on January 18, 2001

Hey kindall, check this out:
posted by ericost at 11:00 PM on January 18, 2001

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