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We met at work, AltaVista and I.

It was so long ago, I can't remember who introduced us, but once we met we were inseparable.  

Back then, when the internet was still new and bubbling, other people bragged that Internet Explorer or Netscape were the best. Some found everything they needed with America Online. But I was all about AltaVista.

You never forget your first search engine.

I got the news today--that after July 8, AltaVista will be gone. Never to be updated.

A Eulogy For AltaVista, The Google Of Its Time

The Amazing AltaVista

You appeared on the search engine scene in December 1995. You made us go “woah” when you arrived. You did that by indexing around 20 million web pages, at a time when indexing 2 million web pages was considered to be big.

Today, of course, pages get indexed in the billions, the tens of billions or more. But in 1995, 20 million was huge. Existing search engines like Lycos, Excite & InfoSeek (to name only a few) didn’t quite know what hit them. With so many pages, you seemed to find stuff they and others didn’t.

As a result, you were a darling of reviews and word-of-mouth praise. You grew in popularity. In fact, 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. 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.
In the fall of 1995, [Digital Equipment Corporation] decided to move AltaVista beyond the labs and offer it as a public service on the web, to highlight DEC's internet businesses. The company tested the search engine internally for two months, allowing 10,000 employees to put the system through its paces.

On December 15th, 1995, less than six months after the start of the project, AltaVista opened its virtual doors to the public, with an index of 16 million documents. It was an immediate hit -- more than 300,000 searchers used the engine on its first day. Nine months later, AltaVista was handling 19 million requests per day.

I have since settled down with Google, and I'll admit it is a much stormier relationship. Google can be intrusive, possessive and needy, unless you make it clear that you don't want to sign on to all of that.

Maybe that's why I am wistful about AltaVista and I, and went back there for old time sake's today. Because AltaVista represents a long gone moment of boundless internet optimism, a golden era that only promised endless job growth, rising stocks and a united global village.

If you want to go back there, you still can right here.

After July 8, you'll need to Google it.

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