AltaVista Launches New Look, Larger Size, More Languages

AltaVista Launches New Look, Larger Size, More Languages

From The Search Engine Report
June 3, 1998

AltaVista improved its service in three ways during May; updating its look, increasing its index size and making behind-the-scenes changes allowing it index pages beyond those written in Western European languages.

The redesign is easiest to spot. Over the past few months, AltaVista has continually added tabs and links to its home page to highlight the new services it offers. This had resulted in a patchwork that was not particularly attractive.

"You could see the Band-Aids," joked Louis Monier, AltaVista's technology director.

Now AltaVista's front page has been redesigned to make it more organized. The search box remains the most dominant element, while AltaVista's other services are highlighted along the right-hand side of the screen.

You'll easily spot AltaVista's content partnerships, which provide entertainment, health, finance and travel information. All are within the "Zones" box. The translation and free email services come below this, in the aptly named "Services" box.

You might overlook AltaVista's additional search options. These appear in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, in small text. Links here lead to the advanced search form, the LookSmart-powered directory and Usenet, people and business search features.

Looking to add your page? A link to the Add URL service continues to appear at the bottom of the screen.

AltaVista has also increased its size to 140 million web pages, once again giving it the title of largest search engine. AltaVista and Inktomi keep swapping this title, so don't be surprised if Inktomi announces an increase from its present 110 million pages.

Finally, AltaVista announced that it has reengineered its service so that a single index can store text from much of the world, regardless of character sets it is written in.

AltaVista's spider previously could not read text written in non-Western European languages. Now the spider is configured to read a wide range of character sets, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Central European, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. There are plans to add even more sets.

Monier stressed that text from all these pages is combined into one single index, which he says is unique and convenient. For example, it means that visitors can perform a search in English, then one in Chinese, without having to leave the service and go to a Chinese-only edition.

AltaVista does this by translating whatever page it finds into Unicode, which can store characters for all languages. AltaVista can determine the character set of a page even if a web author has failed to indicated it, which commonly happens.

When someone performs a search, that is also translated into Unicode and checked against the index. Matching pages are then brought back.

AltaVista says its new system is especially helpful for languages such as Chinese, where the same word might be represented in different ways, depending on the particular Chinese character set used. AltaVista can now bring back any pages matching the word, even if they were written in a different set than that used by the person searching.

Excite also just announced it will be launching a similar service for Chinese searching today, in conjunction with popular Chinese web site The service will be available from the home page.


AltaVista World Index

More information about searching in non-Western European languages.