AltaVista has added three new "Search Centers" that cater to those seeking multimedia files and a fourth "Advanced Search" center with content designed to help searchers and webmasters alike. New country specific versions of AltaVista have also been added.
When you come to the AltaVista home page, look just above the search box, and you'll see a tab for each search center: "Advanced Search, "Images," "MP3/Audio" and "Video." Clicking on one of these tabs takes you into the selected center, where you can perform a specialty search.
Let's start with the Advanced Search center. You'll find that the actual advanced search interface hasn't changed, and I'd actually suggest that most people not even bother trying to use it. It's really designed for those who want to do Boolean searching or who wish to override all the helpful things that AltaVista does automatically in normal search, such as displaying only one page per web site or automatic phrase detection.
What you should definitely do is read the wealth of new tutorial material that's being made available in the center. AltaVista has really outdone itself in trying to help you learn how to search better using its service. The Advanced Search Tutorial located here will help those searching with AltaVista understand better how to tap into its power, including how to see more than 200 results, something I'm occasionally asked about. Webmasters should also love the "How AltaVista Works" tutorial, where AltaVista provides an unprecedented amount of information on how it indexes and ranks pages.
The Images center brings up AltaVista's former Photo Finder service, which continues to be an outstanding way to seek pictures. Enter a few words, and you'll be shown thumbnail images that AltaVista believes matches your query. The pictures come from AltaVista's spidering of the web, as well as from collections owned by Corbis and Getty.
The MP3/Audio center is new and marks AltaVista entry into serving up audio files. Sound listings come from spidering both web and FTP sites, plus through partnerships with companies like CDNow and MP3.com. The center also provides links to MP3 players and tutorials on how to download and listen to MP3 files.
The Video center, like the others, features content that comes from spidering the web as well as video files provided by news, entertainment and financial broadcast companies. A tutorial on how to download and view video files is also available.
AltaVista has also been busy with its global expansion, which was revitalized about a year ago with the launch of AltaVista Germany. The company added a Scandinavian site in October, a United Kingdom site in December yesterday officially launched Dutch and French sites.
AltaVista had extended a global presence before this expansion, operating mirror sites in partnership with local companies in places such as Europe and Asia. It also had ties to "power" other people's regionally branded services. However, AltaVista's new model is to set up its own directly run operations in different countries, putting it in competition with some former partners.
For instance, AltaVista previously had a partnership with Scandinavia Online, which runs several portal sites in Scandinavia. Now that AltaVista is competing with Scandinavia Online, it wasn't surprising to see SOL dump AltaVista last month. FAST Search has taken over as SOL's new search technology partner.
The new sites that AltaVista has been rolling out all have country-specific collections of documents in addition to allowing you to search the world using AltaVista's global index. For instance, the UK site has a collection of about 30 million documents identified as being from the UK.
The challenge in making country specific collections is that the regional value of domain names has been eroding over time. For instance, in the UK, many companies register .com domains rather than .co.uk domains. One reason is that it makes for a shorter, easier address. The thought of .com valuations is another big draw. Over in Sweden, the .nu domain is very popular as an alternative to the country specific .se domain. Why? .nu in Swedish means "now," AltaVista says, and so companies register it to make a play on words. Consequently, AltaVista has to make sure to spider this domain in addition to .se for its Swedish index.
AltaVista also makes use of the database assembled by iAtlas, a company it acquired last year, to help understand if a site is regional. iAtlas has matched domains to countries and even addresses, giving AltaVista a powerful tool
Add URL remains another option for AltaVista to identify regional content, and it is essential that you begin submitting to each regional edition you feel you are relevant for. Want to be found in AltaVista Germany? Then submit using its Add URL form, which should help include you in the German index.
Those needing regional appeal should also think strongly about registering a country specific domain. If you want to be found any crawler-based index for France, for instance, having a domain that ends in .fr will be a great help.
Advanced Search Center
AltaVista International Sites
Links to AltaVista's new regional sites can be found here. The ones they operate directly all begin "AtlaVista," such as "AltaVista UK," except for AltaVista Canada. Most of the other services are either mirror sites or use AltaVista's crawling technology to build their own indexes.
AltaVista is not alone in international expansion. Excite Canada also just launched yesterday.