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AltaVista
Gone But Not Forgotten

Altavista is No More.

The once mighty AltaVista search engine was purchased by Yahoo in 2003 and was eventually closed down. It no longer exists. If you try to go to www.Altavista.com, you will be redirected to the Yahoo portal site.

I cut my SEO teeth optimizing websites for ranking in AltaVista back before Google existed or Yahoo was popular, when the only way to get to AltaVista was to go through the Digital Equipment Corporation website. They were a very big computer manufacturer of "minicomputers"; the class of dinosaur computers killed by Apple and Microsoft's relatively cheap "micro computers".

I believe the very first URL I ever typed into my first (text-only!) browser ( Lynx) was this URL for AltaVista in 1995:

http://www.digital.com/altavista/
(Which now goes to a history lesson about AltaVista.)

If I recall correctly, in that first search I was looking for a list of Usenet Groups so I could mention a particular product in them, where appropriate, with directions to the website of the company I was working for. In other words, the usenet groups quickly told me that I was spamming them, and I desisted. It all worked surprisingly well and made my boss at the time very happy. Based on the monetary success of that first effort, he shut down his expensive telemarketing boiler room and went to online marketing only.

The AltaVista search engine was great for a while, then at its peak was rendered completely unusable by spammers filling it with spammy results. The spam got so bad that even its die-hard users started looking around for other search engines to use. By 1998 it was not uncommon to see the entire first page of AltaVista search results filled with links to p@rn sites or with all the first page of results from one irrelevant website. That was back in the days when a simple keyword tag stuffed full of keywords would get you top placement for them. Yes, SEO really used to be that easy, although it didn't have the name "SEO" yet.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Altavista, which doesn't really do it justice. With proper management and technical expertise, AltaVista could have grown up to become something like the Google juggernaut, but it couldn't ever get itself organized despite being one of the first players on the field.

Sad.



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