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what is the genesis of the word Alta Vista. I am not referring to the company but the root language. Here in Ottawa you have Alta Vista drive, now that has nothing to do with the company. Any answers? Aseem in Ottawa

In Whistler, BC, a sub division overlooking Alta Lake is named Alta Vista as well. Already, Microsoft code names projrcts after the resort town. Alex, 2 hours from Whistler, not close enough

"alta vista" is spanish. "alta" means "high", "vista" means "view" (or "vista" in english as well). It's a fairly generic name. (BTW, the specific term for 'origin of a word' is etymology)

Seems to me that altavista is the only search engine for videos. Do they hold a patent on that?

Alta Vista (disambiguation)[edit]

  • Since a few small places use the name "Alta Vista" (with a space), we might want to think about turning Alta Vista (with a space) into a disambiguation page, with a link to this article as its first entry. Currently, no article links directly to Alta Vista, so making it the disambig page, would cause no harm. I started the disambig page Alta Vista (disambiguation) because altering Alta Vista itself, should probably only be done with advance agreement. --rob 22:47, 12 October 2005 (UTC)

Not THAT Mike Burrows[edit]

The link to Mike Burrows, of DEC SRC, Microsoft Research and Google, co-developer of the bz2 compression algorithm and (as correctly pointed out) one of the AltaVista people isn't the same Mike Burrows who designs bicycles.

Alta Vista's beginnings[edit]

I continously see references to AltaVista being launched in 1995, but this is not correct. I was an engineer at DEC from 1989-1993 and was a user of AltaVista in 1992 while there. I clearly remember that it was the only internet search engine at the time, even while the internet was still a large user of uucp protocols and before portals like Yahoo existed (which according to it's own web site was founded in 1994). Even email was often path specificed (ie. "fred!test!ibm!") and often went through DEC's free email gateway.

When AltaVista first came out, it was a free and volunteer service supported by DEC employees. 1995 is probably a public marketing launch date in response to companies making brand and money off similar technologies. We need to report on the real beginning of AltaVista and correct the historical account.

I am an "old DEC enginner" from that time and yes, Alta Vista what the first WWW search engine available to the public, although back then the public was just schools and technology companies. The public's perception of when it went "live" is incorrect

Keith Barrett; DECmessageQ developer at that time

KeithBarrett (talk) 02:09, 14 November 2008 (UTC)

Alta Vista launched publicly sometime during 1995. The reason I know this is that I was told about it by Jim Gettys who I shared an office with at the Web Consortium. An internal DEC site in 1992 seems very unlikely to me since the public launch of the Web only occurred in 1992. I was a digital sponsored student and I did not encounter the Web till 1992. This despite being sponsored by the DEC-CERN join project. Back in 1992 there was simply not enough content on the Web to be worth searching. I surfed pretty much the entire Web manually in one evening back in 1992.

It was definitely the first serious search engine but not the very first. Fielding had MOMSpider earlier. The resources of the day were Veronica and Jughead. (talk) 17:08, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

I remember using Altavista in the mid 1990s, and I had the impression it was the first serious search engine on the web. One day someone said, "Hey try", and it was clearly better. But it seems like Altavista deserves some credit for being the first. Was it the first? DonPMitchell (talk) 21:02, 31 July 2008 (UTC)
I remember it from around 1995. I was using Yahoo to find hotels etc. by browsing categories, and AltaVista to do broad searches. What killed it for me is that "X and Y" searches were being treated as "X or Y" so I'd get too many pages that had too little to do with what I was looking for. As soon as I started using Google, I saw that it gave more relevant results, and it wasn't much later that AltaVista was dead. This didn't have to happen so quickly. Carl Ponder (talk) 03:12, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
The history-portion needs a real rework, it isn't even consistent. And Brian_Reid_(computer_scientist) refers to AltaVista beginning in 1991, and isn't really in-line with this article. An other example: "As of 1998 ... 13 million queries per day" closely followed by "Traffic increased steadily from 300,000 hits on the first day(1991? 1995? First day of Christmas?) to more than 80 million hits a day two years later." This clearly doesn't add up, unless traffic in 1997 (1995+2) was 80 million hits per day and AltaVista lost 67 million hits per day in a year.... Or maybe this is a mixing of "hits" and "queries", which is still rather misleading. KristianLyngstol (talk) 20:35, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

I see Paul Flaherty is mentioned as a key person involved in Alta Vista. His role should also appear in the origins of the product. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:16, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

Article claims Altavista was the first full fledged search engine. This is incorrect. Yahoo/OpenText launched a few months earlier with a full web index. see eg. slide 2 here: (talk) 11:12, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

possible error[edit]

In the article is the statement "Each machine had 130 GB of RAM, 500 GB of hard disk space, ..." -- both of those numbers seem outrageously large, especially for 1998. I believe that should be "MB", not "GB", so it would read "Each machine had 130 MB of RAM, 500 MB of hard disk space, ...", much more reasonable numbers at that time. Even today (2008), 130GB of RAM would be crazy hard on most computers. No, actually, 130 GB of RAM is impossible on most current computers. But these were DEC machines, however, so who knows what cutting-edge crap they loaded on them.

I'm not about to change it (GB to MB) without confirmation from somebody. Afterall, as I said, DEC had been very cutting-edge in the past, and maybe these were really whack machines. And the disk space number could be correct (500GB) as DEC has long been a provider of cluster solutions (lots of disk drives hooked together and accessed as a unit).

Anybody know? Any old DEC engineers out there? (talk) 21:36, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

-- (talk) 03:20, 19 July 2008 (UTC) My Dual Pentium Pro desktop back in 1996 had 128MB of ram and 24GB of hard disk. I've changed it back, google's index and document repository was >200GB in 1998 and the numbers are consistant with the size of DEC MP servers of the time.

According to , Alta Vista used DEC Alpha 8400 TurboLaser (probably actually AlphaServer). According to the HP site , the maximum memory on an 8400 is 28GB and the maximum number of processors is 14. According to this , the machine was "an AlphaServer 8400 5/300 (a.k.a. TurboLaser), which includes 10 processors, 6 GB of RAM, and 210 GB of hard disk with RAID 5." In this January 1996 email, "we have quadrupled the capacity of our AlphaServer 8400 system from two to eight processors, and doubled the memory,". This quotes a book published in 1997 "The search core of AltaVista is a set of seven AlphaServer 8400 5/300 index servers, each with 10 (64-bit) processors, 6Gb of RAM, and 210Gb of hard disk in a RAID array. Each server holds a complete copy of the Web index, currently 40Gb and has a response time of less than a second." DHR (talk) 02:12, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

Here's perhaps the best bet for correct information about 1998: . It says "16 AlphaServer 8400 5/440's (and still growing). Each with 8 GB of memory --". It seems likely that the articles "Each machine had 130 GB of RAM" should read "The machines collectively had 130GB of RAM" since 8G * 16 is 130 if you use 1000 instead of 1024. DHR (talk) 02:12, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

confusing article[edit]

At least the introduction needs to be rewritten. Even after reading the entire article, one isn't sure if Alta Vista still exists as an independent search engine and/or company or not. --Espoo 09:20, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Untrue Statement[edit]

"Rationalized that AltaVista would be a showcase for its new line of servers."

This is not true. It was run by employee volunteers who, like a few othre major companies and most colleges, were trying to provide services to make finding files on the public network easier.

kgb 21:11, 27 December 2006 (UTC)

poor quality article[edit]

There are several "facts" here that needs to be sourced or removed:

"AltaVista was misunderstood by its parent company." "Digital Equipment Corporation, a hardware company, missed the potential of the Internet." "[Digital] rationalized that AltaVista would be a showcase for its new line of servers." "in 1999 Compaq ... alienat[ed] their core userbase" "The failed attempt at a 'portal' was dropped" (this last statement alone needs to source no less than three separate claims: it was #1 an attempt at being a portal, #2 it was failed, and #3 it was dropped)

Furthermore, the text says "but it continued to lose marketshare, especially to Google" but no previous discussion of lost marketplace (or market position at all) exists.

Moving on, the text says: 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. This is not correct. AV sold off their email services, to Iname, which later was bought by (I started an account at AV which is still free at myself. While riddled with ads and clearly inferior to the mail services of Yahoo and Google, it's fully functional - and still free)

All in all, a very poor article clearly biased against the company. 08:51, 11 April 2007 (UTC)

     --(talk) 03:30, 19 July 2008 (UTC) I don't think there is an intentional and deliberate bias, just a sad lack of primary sources. 


  • I agree that this article sucks. I think that AltaVista deserves better, since they played an important role in the "early" (pre-Google) days of the Web's history.-- 00:38, 7 November 2007 (UTC)
    --(talk) 03:28, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Yeah, it's a pity there's so little history from the period left. Most of the web pages that covered AV are long dead.

other AltaVista products[edit]

I don't see the tunnel (early VPN) and firewall products mentioned at all... -- 22:14, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

I do not see any mention to their free dial up service, it was like Netzero originally was, you downloaded a program and it put an ad banner at the bottom of your screen and connected you to the internet. Tommyborsh (talk) 18:56, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:AltaVista.svg[edit]

Nuvola apps important.svg

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If there is other fair use media, consider checking that you have specified the fair use rationale on the other images used on this page. Note that any fair use images uploaded after 4 May, 2006, and lacking such an explanation will be deleted one week after they have been uploaded, as described on criteria for speedy deletion. If you have any questions please ask them at the Media copyright questions page. Thank you.

BetacommandBot 08:15, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Since July 2003[edit]

I added a cite for Yahoo Inc. buying Overture Services Inc.. I looked for some mention of AltaVista after July 2003, and only saw the echo of the uncited claim which was in this artcle that AltaVista continued on with Yahoo's search technology. I couldn't find any record of that. I (in 2008) looked for evidence of this on the site and it wasn't there either, and altavista's search results are not the same as In 2008 it looks like altavista was in a sense abandoned at some point after 2003. The final entry in the pressroom does not offer a clue. So if there is a good source of verifiable information after 2003, please add it to the article, or point me in the right direction. patsw (talk) 23:25, 24 August 2008 (UTC)

[Update May 2010] I can't speak about the pressroom link, but as of 2010 Altavista seems to still be working, providing search results comparable to google's in my experience so far, but without the annoying sidebar. If anyone knows of ANY of the history post-2003, it would be good to update this wiki article for the past 7 years (!). —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:03, 10 May 2010 (UTC)

Audio and Video searching removed?[edit]

Does anyone have any idea why this has happened? It seems to be kind of a suicidal move on AV's part, given that, besides being able to conduct those searches, it's a fair-to-middling search engine at best, in my experience with it. Which is not to say it doesn't do well in some areas, but it gained a lot of strength in its ability to conduct specific-file-type searches. --Oceanhahn (talk) 20:51, 10 February 2009 (UTC)

Grammar in article[edit]

"AltaVista was owned by Overture from 2003, while Overture was later owned by Yahoo!. This ends AltaVista up that it is owned by Yahoo!"

Maybe this was translated to English using Babelfish before being placed in the article? (talk) 18:51, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Altavista's operating system[edit]

It would be worth mentioning the O/S, at the start was OpenVMS. The VMS marketing did their best to use it as a showcase for the O/S. Besides being a very relevant O/S for the high end, many folks don't know about it. (DEC was always terrible at marketing)

This info might bring forth some answers as to what the original programming was. DCL? maybe.. but probably not. Today Altavista probably runs on Digital Unix or Tru-64 UNIX (if it is still called that any more). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Opcom (talkcontribs) 05:27, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Removed functionality (June 2010) — exact phrases[edit]

I noticed that the functionality of AltaVista recently got worse, as they removed the possibility to search for exact phrases. I don't see why, it makes AltaVista pretty useless. Maybe somebody wants to mention that in the article? (I'm a Swede, so English isn't my mother tongue.) See background below.

"5. Please describe your issue in detail:

     Hello, have you recently removed the quotation mark search function in Altavista? (i.e. " ") When I use the Swedish version of Altavista and search for an exact phrase with quotation marks, the results don't contain the exact phrase any longer. This seems to be the case with the English version as well. BR Andreas"


"Hello Andreas,

Thank you for writing to AltaVista Search Support.

I understand that the quotes are being removed from the search box when trying to search exact phrases in AltaVista.

We've tested this feature and it is working as expected. Though the quotes are removed from the search box, any result with the exact phrase will show first in the search results. However, if the exact phrase can not be found in a websites title or description then broader results using the individual words will be displayed.

I apologize for any confusion this has caused. If you have any additional questions or concerns please contact us again.

Thank you again for writing to AltaVista Search Support.


(Name)" (talk) 15:53, 9 June 2010 (UTC)

Recently AltaVista has lost the ability to perform searches of exact phrases, as enclosed in quotation marks.
An example is the difference between searching for "president of Australia" as a phrase and the words president of Australia, but perhaps with a preference (which can't be turned off) for the words in the order as entered. (Note there is no 'president of Australia'!)
  • Altavista claims to return 229,000,000 results for this search.
    • Altavista claims to return 231,000,000 results for of Australia president, which seems even stranger
  • Bing claims to return 202,000,000 results.
  • Google Search claims to return about 196,000 results — which is the only realistic value, I would guess.
Like the writer above, I would like to know when, and most importantly why this happened, and whether it would be returned.
—DIV ( (talk) 02:04, 2 July 2010 (UTC))

alexa rank[edit]

How does that work? >500

I am thinking that > 500 means it rates as GREATER THAN 500, which would mean it is between 1-500. (talk) 09:08, 20 July 2010 (UTC)

You should ask for a refund on your primary school education.

query facilities[edit]

maybe i'm just being nostalgic, but as i recall in the 1990's altavista provided relatively sophisticated ways of specifying a search and once you got familiar with the notation you could zero in what you were looking for more precisely than you could with other search engines at the time, and perhaps now. somewhere along the line that functionality went away, presumably in an attempt to be more like other search engines that were becoming more popular.

it would be interesting to have a description of the user interface for writing queries, the notation, how it changed over the years, and why. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:54, 27 February 2011 (UTC)

I recall (and miss) the Booelean opeartor AND OR and NOT in the search. At least most searches honor the "multiple word" in quotes literal search feature. Naaman Brown (talk) 21:58, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Appears to be back[edit]

look for yourself --John Bessa (talk) 01:36, 6 October 2011 (UTC)

Queries are now just redirected to Yahoo. This is what the article already says. No news here. -- X7q (talk) 01:43, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
Not on my screen (in Korea). When I use as a URL, I get an alta Vista page enclosed in Yahoo material (and the URL turns to Yahoo). Still, the main appearance is Alta Vista, whti a shiny logo right up next to the first results. (talk) 04:45, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
Same thing happens to me in the US. Results are returned under the AltaVista banner, although if you click on any of the menu items above the search box, it takes you to Yahoo.--NapoliRoma (talk) 16:51, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Altavista Email[edit]

The Altavista free email service is only mentioned in passing, and nothing is said about what happened to it. (Altavista email was taken over by what now is, not Yahoo) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:17, 15 June 2012 (UTC)

  • I agree that this deserves a larger mention.--Jorgen W (talk) 03:11, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

Babel Fish[edit]

Babel Fish is discontinued from Yahoo!, however its own brand is online again apparently since 2010, just check; with regard to Microsoft, both' and redirect to , the official site of Bing translator, however is the same site of Does anyone have more information on this issue?--Jorgen W (talk) 03:45, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

'powered by'[edit]

The article says AltaVista is powered by the Yahoo! search engine. However, both Altavista and the Yahoo! web search-result pages say "Powered by Bing" in the footer.--Jeffro77 (talk) 02:45, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

Corporate structure[edit]

What is the basis for identifying AltaVista as a private company? The article does not seem very clear about the corporate structure. It primarily just describes a series of ownerships by larger companies. The infobox says "Type: Private company". But the identified owners – DEC, Compaq, CMGI, and Yahoo, are all public companies. As best I can tell, the article is about a search engine or search service that had several owners over a substantial period of time, and I think the "private company" should probably be removed since the article is not about a distinct company and the description probably does not apply to most of the search engine's history. —BarrelProof (talk) 18:54, 22 August 2016 (UTC)