Print 33 comment(s) - last by BRB29.. on Jul 5 at 3:00 PM

A failed IPO, a mess of different owners and failure to innovate killed the search engine

AltaVista is one of those things you either have no idea about, or if you remember it, you thought it was shut down years ago. Surprise! 

AltaVista, an early search engine that started in 1995, is still around today. However, these are its end days, as the search market continues to be dominated by the likes of Google (or just Google, actually). 

AltaVista is expected to be laid to rest July 8. 

AltaVista circa 1999
AltaVista circa 1999

The archaic search engine started off strong and successful during the Internet boom of the 1990s, but hit some trouble after a failed initial public offering (IPO) back in 2000. The company was supposed to raise $300 million in December 1999 for the expected April 2000 IPO, but cancelled it due to a drop in the Nasdaq Stock Market. 

From there, AltaVista went through several acquisitions. It was founded by Digital Equipment Corporation in 1995, which was acquired by Compaq in 1998 and merged with Hewlett-Packard in 2002. Overture Services then bought AltaVista alone in 2003, and Overture was purchaased by Yahoo in 2003. 

Aside from failed IPOs and a mess of different owners, AltaVista just couldn't innovate enough to keep up with Google or Yahoo. 

Source: CNET

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A Shame
By drlumen on 7/2/2013 12:36:38 PM , Rating: 4
It's a shame really. I used it much in the early days but with each buyout and merger the results screen started getting so cluttered that it was a bit confusing to find the search results against all their ads. Kinda like going to AOL (shudders) or trying to use the ad and subscription supported, kodachrome nightmare that was Prodigy (before the internet).

It was good back in the day. I don't think their current issue was so much due to technology but of a lousy layout.

RE: A Shame
By BRB29 on 7/2/2013 12:55:51 PM , Rating: 5
was founded by Digital Equipment Corporation in 1995, which was acquired by Compaq in 1998 and merged with Hewlett-Packard in 2002 .

There's your problem right there.

RE: A Shame
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2013 12:57:11 PM , Rating: 2
I spotted that too. HP seems to have far surpassed IBM as a rising software killer after purchase.

RE: A Shame
By BRB29 on 7/2/2013 1:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
At least IBM still manage to make profits and actually sell the divisions that they are not effective in. Like their laptop divisions to Lenovo and is now thriving.

HP is like a graveyard.

RE: A Shame
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2013 1:52:06 PM , Rating: 2
True dat.

Love Lenovo especially their outlet.
Check the Doorbusters hourly for a great deal and warranty.

Customer support is awesome best experience outside of NewEgg.

RE: A Shame
By Argon18 on 7/2/2013 3:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
HP is a graveyard indeed. Every technology they buy withers and dies. Either deliberately (e.g. Alpha CPU) or from clueless HP executive management (e.g. Palm).

I pity the fool whose company gets bought by HP, for its technology will be shelved and killed, and its employees all laid off.

Welcome to the New HP.

RE: A Shame
By Argon18 on 7/2/2013 3:17:01 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention DEC's OpenVMS operating system, that had active-active clustering in the 1980's The 80's! Even today, OpenVMS has features that no other OS has. For example, the ability for multiple operating system instances (multiple physical servers even) to all boot from the same physical OS disk.

What was state-of-the-art Microsoft in the 1980's? MS-DOS. Lol.

RE: A Shame
By ilt24 on 7/2/2013 1:30:42 PM , Rating: 2
A few years before HP bought Compaq, Altavista was sold to a company called CGMI and it was CGMI that tried the failed IPO.

RE: A Shame
By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2013 2:22:19 AM , Rating: 2
There's your problem right there.

Very funny. If you want to know what sealed their fate, it's not HP, look no further than

RE: A Shame
By BRB29 on 7/3/2013 8:19:18 AM , Rating: 2
Very funny. If you want to know what sealed their fate, it's not HP, look no further than

Having competition does not seal anyone's fate.

Look at every company HP have absorbed and please tell me one that was actually worth the purchase price. Palm, Compaq, Altavista, Autonomy...

RE: A Shame
By Reclaimer77 on 7/3/2013 4:25:54 PM , Rating: 2
Having competition does not seal anyone's fate.

Are you on drugs?

The closest thing Google has to competition is Bing. Which Microsoft has poured, literally, billions on billions into and has yet to make a single dollar of profit OR gain marketshare over Google.

So your options are to acknowledge that Google, single handedly, took over the Internet search market. Or you can attempt to blame dozens of companies like HP for the search engines failing.

RE: A Shame
By BRB29 on 7/5/2013 3:00:20 PM , Rating: 2
you just proved my point.

When Google came out, there were plenty of competitors around and Google was the underdog.

While everyone else sit around and collect, google continuously improves itself and became dominant. If anything, competition is what helped google get to where they are. They never slowed down their pace. Google is still dominant because they offer so much more than just email and search. OTOH, Bing spend billions improving itself and offer barely anything else. You can conclude that Google is thriving because it is constantly competing with other companies and even with itself.

So yes, I blame HP for sitting on Altavista and doing absolutely nothing with it. Sounds like what they did to Palm right? their little revival probably won't save it this time either.

RE: A Shame
By AntiM on 7/2/2013 12:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
....acquired by Compaq in 1998 and merged with Hewlett-Packard in 2002.

That explains why it turned into a mess.

RE: A Shame
By marvdmartian on 7/3/2013 8:12:46 AM , Rating: 3
I used them more for their translation page than for their search engine. Google's translation page is okay, but Alta Vista's "Babel Fish" was my first love! LOL

For search engines, I wish we had HotBot back. Man, that one took a MAJOR dive, once they were bought out by Lycos!

By Iketh on 7/2/2013 12:34:52 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe they just had too many syllables in the name.

On a side note, I clicked on this article not because I recognized AltaVista, but because I cherish reading about failed companies. What's wrong with me?

RE: hmm
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2013 12:55:52 PM , Rating: 2
Digital Equipment Corporation would be a bigger story they had a lot going for them but seemed to fail in execution or bringing innovation to market. Need to look up thier rise and fall.

RE: hmm
By Ammohunt on 7/2/2013 2:21:11 PM , Rating: 2
No need to just follow RIM

RE: hmm
By Argon18 on 7/2/2013 3:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
DEC certainly did not fail in execution or in bringing innovation to market. They had the fastest CPU in the world. At the time, the best x86 chip from intel was the 32 bit Pentium Pro @ 200 Mhz. DEC was selling the Alpha @ 500 Mhz, and fully 64-bit. No competition!!

DEC was best in class, leading-edge technology right up until 1998 when Compaq bought them out. That's when DEC's tech started getting shelved, and product innovation suffered. Then when HP bought Compaq in 2001, that was the final nail in the coffin.

The EVA SAN product line (mid-level enterprise SAN storage) is the only legacy DEC product line that HP still develops and sells.

RE: hmm
By ilt24 on 7/2/2013 4:01:38 PM , Rating: 2
The EVA SAN product line (mid-level enterprise SAN storage) is the only legacy DEC product line that HP still develops and sells.

I think the EVA line is near it's end as HP is now pushing EVA customers to move their 3PAR solutions.

RE: hmm
By Hector2 on 7/3/2013 10:39:11 AM , Rating: 2
The Alpha was not x86 compatible and, though the Alpha was the acknowledged better architecture and performance leader, sales were disappointing and it and DEC died off

RE: hmm
By Hector2 on 7/3/2013 10:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
I worked for DEC in the '80s and '90s. They made a ton of money in minicomputers and kept about $5B cash in the bank during their heyday. Biggest computer company behind IBM. They tried to break into the mainframe business (VAX9000) but at $1M each became too expensive when compared to the fast emerging workstations, including their own Alpha. At the low-end, they made a PC that was compatible with their own VAX line but not x86. They died as they were squeezed in the middle and replaced by x86 PCs and workstations.

RIP :(
By mead drinker on 7/2/2013 12:49:30 PM , Rating: 3
This takes me back to adolescence... AltaVista was there in 7th grade, along with webcrawler, lycos, yahoo, and AOL search. They are all defunct now or worse derelict.

Thank you AltaVista for being my alternative search engine when the Miami Dade Public School system did not allow direct input of your URL, and I would search "AltaVista" in yahoo, only to click a link and arrive at your doorstep. You were my portal of knowledge. You taught me so much at that formative age.

RE: RIP :(
By Motoman on 7/2/2013 1:11:43 PM , Rating: 2
Nah, I use Webcrawler as my default still. I like the fact that it combines search engine results, and has a very simple clean interface. And to rebel against Google. Although Google is in there. But still.

RE: RIP :(
By MadMan007 on 7/2/2013 3:02:36 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot geocities.

RE: RIP :(
By DukeN on 7/2/2013 3:12:46 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, good ol DogPile

What killed AltaVista for me was...
By RealTheXev on 7/2/2013 2:12:23 PM , Rating: 2
The thing that killed AltaVista for me was when they decided to charge money to have your website listed. After that, quickly became my number one search choice.

After became the garbage clutter mess it is today instead of just a search portal, I said in an IRC channel one day "Man, I wish I could use yahoo like the old days, just a search box." was the answer posted. Been using it since.

By Argon18 on 7/2/2013 3:19:34 PM , Rating: 1
Huh? Guess you aren't aware that business pay Google to rank them highly in the search results...

The best translator
By Crazylocha on 7/2/2013 2:08:29 PM , Rating: 2

Those were the fun times trying to understand the translations!

Yahoo vs. Yaaho
By Akerans on 7/2/2013 3:24:54 PM , Rating: 2
... purchased by Yahoo in 2003. Aside from failed IPOs and a mess of different owners, AltaVista just couldn't innovate enough to keep up with Google or Yahoo .

So, it couldn't keep up with itself?

At this point...
By Wolfpup on 7/2/2013 4:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
It looks like Altavista is just Yahoo which is basically Bing? Sooooo.... yeah, it's sad, but I guess shutting it down or not is really about as meaningful as switching your bookmarks to Yahoo.

It was still alive?
By Spookster on 7/2/2013 7:14:08 PM , Rating: 2
I thought it died decades ago. Besides "I need to Alta Vista that" just doesn't roll off the tongue quite like "I need to Google that.

old times
By chromal on 7/2/2013 10:40:44 PM , Rating: 2
Ahhh, DEC AltaVista. It provided a nice alternative to, and I used it often, for a while, in the 1990s. I got lots of amusement out of Babblefish, too.

R.I.P., Babelfish
By jihadjoe on 7/3/2013 11:07:10 AM , Rating: 2
You will be missed.

Altavista might not have innovated enough in terms of search, but babelfish was absolutely ahead of its time.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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