Lesson 7  An Introduction to AltaVista

Now that you have become familiar with Yahoo!!, a search directory, we will examine another search tool. This tool is called AltaVista and is considered a search engine.

       The AltaVista Search Service, which can be found on the web at http://www.altavista.com, was developed by Digital Equipment Corporation in 1995 in its Palo Alto research labs. If you are interested in learning how this search service came about, click here for a short excerpt:  About AltaVista.

How it Works

       AltaVista (AV) is best known as a search engine or web index, however, you will notice that AV has recently instituted a categorical "zone" directory to keep up with the competition.**    As a web index, it creates complete indexes of every word on every web page or Usenet newsgroup it encounters, allowing you to make highly targeted searches. AltaVista searches by keywords, which it derives from the text of a web page. It indexes millions of web pages, as well as articles from Usenet newsgroups, and creates a keyword-searchable database. This allows the user to search the database that it compiles. Therefore, if you type "Bill Gates" into the search form, you will get results from every web page and Usenet news article that contains "Bill Gates". (Although their is a relevancy ranking based on keyword occurrence and placement in the document.) Learning to refine your search (which you will learn in the Advanced Searching module) will significantly reduce the number of hits you receive.

       Because search engines are updated by special software programs (called spiders or robots), they tend to be more "up to date" than subject directories. AltaVista updates its information constantly and each page returned from the search is given a date and time from AltaVista's most recent update.

**Click here to read about the newest features of AltaVista.

Next: Lesson 8 - Searching with AltaVista
Previous: Lesson 6 - Yahoo! Searching - Exercises
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