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Altavista arrives downunder

Altavista arrives downunder

After slashing a quarter of its staff last month, Altavista has continued on its path of consolidation at home in the US, and expansion into new international markets, with the development of a search site in Australia.

Altavista Australia, officially opened this week, is another step in Altavista's rollout of market-specific search sites that have so far proved successful in Europe.

"We discovered that there was more traffic coming into Altavista.com from outside the US than from inside," said Martin Keogh, international development director for Altavista. "We thought it would be a good idea to personalise search engines for other areas."

Focus back on search

Last month ARN reported that Altavista had slashed a significant number of workers and decided to exit the content business to focus on its search capabilities. Subsequently, the new Australian site will not be established as a portal.

"We are going to try and make the search experience more personalised," said Keogh. "We will be creating things like personalised Web-based saving of search results and strings and alerts for when relevant information is changed or comes online."

Keogh expects that the attractive Australian market will require some small local representation. "Because of the need to manage things locally, it is highly likely that we will have an office in Sydney," he said.

"I see two types of competitors in Australia," said Keogh. "There are the multinationals that already have a presence in Australia, such as Yahoo and AOL, and there are the local champions, the Australia-specific portals. Each offers a different type of service, but we'd like to think that we are creating an Australia-specific index that is more targeted and relevant to the market, with a deeper content reach."

The Australian site currently has around eight million pages of content indexed, and Keogh believes that this places it as the largest domestic index in Australia.

"Initially, our revenue model will be through advertising - banners and text links," he said. "For the first six months, this has been secured through Doubleclick. But later we may move into offering specialist search sites for verticals, for say finance or news or shopping."

The pages are indexed through what Keogh terms a "crawler", a program that works from a seed file of relevant domain names and extensions. These would be the obvious domain names like .com.au or .net.au. Once passed through the crawler, any links to other relevant domains are revealed, indexed and subsequently passed through the crawler. This process continues until a point of insufficient incremental return, where there aren't enough new sites to warrant the process going any further.


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