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Home > Learn More > Tech > The History of Alta Vista

The History of Alta Vista

Alta Vista is a one of the leading providers of technology and search services on the web.  Its name means, “A view from above.”  Around springtime in the year 1995 a group of scientists from Digital Equipment Corporation’s research lab in Palo Alto, California got together and created a way for every word of every single HTML to be stored in a searchable index. These scientists together created the first full-text, searchable database on the World Wide Web.  On December 15th, 1995 AltaVista opened to the public. It contained an index of 16 million documents. Instantly it was a success. No one knows for certain whose idea it was originally to create it, and there was some dispute about it. We do no for sure there were two key participants, Louis Monier who wrote the crawler, and Michael Burrows, who was responsible for writing the indexer. 

By the end of the first day, Alta Vista had more than 300,000 searchers using the engine. With in one year of being open to the public AltaVista was dealing with 19 million requests per day. Both casual and professional searchers quickly opted for AltaVista worldwide. AltaVista's service  became the subject of some books and a numerous amount of articles. The search engine’s website   grew to be one of the top destinations on the web, and in 1997 earned $50,000,000 in sponsorship revenue.
In addition to this invention, Alta Vista was the first to have multi-lingual search and the first ever search services that support Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. 

They were also the inventors of Babel Fish.  Babel Fish was the first Internet translation machine service that could decipher and translate entire web pages, phrases and words from, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, and English. It is now called Yahoo! Babel Fish; after Yahoo! took over Alta Vista they renamed it to fit their company.  Alta Vista’s most distinguishing feature was its minimalist interface compared with other search engines of its time. This feature was lost when it became a portal, but it was regained when it refocused its efforts on its search function. Here are some more informational facts about the first ever search engine, Alta Vista:

Alta Vista was the first search engine to provide image, audio, and video search capabilities
Alta Vista has the most advanced search features, such as, translation and language recognition, specialty search, and multimedia search.

Alta Vista has been awarded more search related patents then any of the other search engines of its time – sixty-one to be exact.
Alta Vista’s mission is to set the standard for how people find their information in a reasonable amount of time. Also, they strive to search technology in every aspect.  The web continues to grow, which makes it more difficult for people to find the specific information they are looking for.  Finding information is the main reason people go browsing on the web. 

By adapting and conforming to the ever-changing complexity of the Internet, and innovating their proven search technology, Alta Vista helps users locate what they are searching for, fast and intuitively.  In 2003 Alta Vista was purchased by Overture. This came as a shock to many because it was purchased for only $140,000,000.  Then sadly, that all came to a finish.  At the end of 2003 Yahoo! took charge and purchased Overture.  Alta Vista was part of that package and is now used as a copy of Yahoo!, using a similar search index and a large font interface.  It is boring and plain now, and not at all the exciting search engine it used to be.

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