Over the weekend the news came that Yahoo! was to shut down AltaVista. Its demise will be pretty swift, as it will be taken offline as early as Monday next week. But it’s not really surprising that it’s happened.
Looking back, the last time I mentioned AltaVista on this blog was almost nine years ago, in a blog post about how Google was suffering from the side-effects of a denial of service attack. Over the past few years Google has come to dominate search, with the vast majority of all queries going through it. Yahoo’s own search engine and Microsoft’s MSN Search, now renamed Bing, are distant rivals, and Ask.com is now really just an ‘also ran’. Nobody really bothers with AltaVista anymore.
AltaVista was one of the first search engines out there, having launched way back in 1995. When I started using the internet in 1999, it was one of the more popular search engines, although I was more partial to using Yahoo! or MSN at the time. I eventually moved to Google some time around 2001 and haven’t really looked back. There’s a nice eulogy from Danny O’Sullivan which shows that I wasn’t alone; 2001 was about the time when Google overtook AltaVista in popularity.
After that time I still used AltaVista’s Babel Fish translator, but then Google Translate got better so I used that instead. Babel Fish apparently shut down last year, evidently with little fanfare as I hadn’t noticed it had gone.
It’s a shame that one of the biggest early search engines is now gone, but I suppose it was inevitable. Goodbye, AltaVista.