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AltaVista Says Its New Search Engine 20% Faster Than Rivals'

Internet:, which carries no graphics, sorts information in descending order of its relevancy to the request.


AltaVista Co. introduced a sleeker, quicker search engine Wednesday in a bid to reestablish itself as the Internet's most sophisticated tour guide.

The Palo Alto company designed the engine,, for what it called "search enthusiasts," a mostly male audience of veteran Web surfers who visit numerous sites each day.

The search engine fetches results 20% faster than rival sites and sorts the information in descending order of its relevancy to the request, said AltaVista Chief Executive Rod Schrock.'s ability to sort the results is part of AltaVista's patented technology. The speed of the searches reflects in part a decision not to include any graphics, including graphic-based advertisements. instead features four or five text-based advertising links that generate revenue based on how many visitors click on them.

AltaVista will receive 5 cents to 50 cents per click on's text ads, Schrock said. The company also hopes to generate revenue from by licensing the search technology to other businesses.

AltaVista will continue to operate its main search engine at, though Schrock predicted that about 10% to 15% of the traffic at AltaVista's main site would switch over to as a preferred search tool.

Media Metrix ranks AltaVista as the seventh-most popular search engine in the United States. Yahoo offers by far the most popular search engine, used by 64% of Web surfers.

Including international markets, where AltaVista has a huge following, the company estimates that it has about 60 million unique visitors--all users who visited the site during a given month, counted once each. Yahoo, by comparison, has 145 million unique visitors.

AltaVista is trying to be the search engine equivalent of a BMW or Mercedes, as opposed to Yahoo's position as the General Motors or Toyota of the market, officials said.

"We are the 'Un-Yahoo' and are very confident of that position," Schrock said.

"Yahoo wants to be the Web, and we want to unlock the full potential of the Web. Our strength is not breadth but depth."

As part of its stepped-up marketing effort, AltaVista recently commissioned a study by ZD Labs to determine what search engine produced the most relevant results. AltaVista beat out Google, Direct Hit, Northern Light and Yahoo for coming up with the most relevant results in multi-word queries. Google, a recent threat in the market for souped-up search engines, was the best for single-word queries, according to ZD Labs.

Barry Parr, director of consumer e-commerce for International Data Corp., said the new site will give AltaVista an additional edge.

"Google has been a real underground phenomenon among people in the know on the Net, and AltaVista has addressed that issue with this site," Parr said.

AltaVista had hoped to use Wednesday's announcement as a way to make a big splash after an initial public offering of the company's stock scheduled for mid-April. The company indefinitely postponed its $281-million IPO after Internet stocks nose-dived in a wave of selling last month.

Schrock said AltaVista will still go public, but not until investor sentiment changes.

"We are waiting for the stock market to come back, and we want AltaVista to be [a] leading indicator that the Internet economy is ready to grow again."

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