Believe it or not, there was a time before Google when many search engines battled for supremacy. One of the most popular search engines from that long ago age (the 1990s) was AltaVista, which lost the battle to Google and was acquired by Yahoo in 2003. Last week, Yahoo announced that it would officially shut down AltaVista July 8 and redirect all traffic to Yahoo’s main search page.
AltaVista first launched in December 1995 and became really popular for its ability to index significantly more websites -- about 20 million -- than any other search engine of the time. Results came back faster, and its “crawler” technology allowed AltaVista to continue growing. It wasn’t until 2001 that Google overtook AltaVista in the amount of searches performed.
“I’d say you were the Google of your time, but it would be more accurate to say Google was the AltaVista of its time,” Danny Sullivan wrote in a touching eulogy for AltaVista that expressed more than a little resentment at Yahoo. “That’s because Google didn’t even exist when you were ascendant. That’s also because you help paved some of the way for Google.”
Although I haven’t used it in years, AltaVista was the first search engine I ever used. AltaVista was central to my introduction to the Internet in summer school computer classes, showing me how to find and access information on a wide-open network.