AltaVista was one of the first search engines to index significant amounts of web content and proved hugely popular before Google debuted.
Current owner Yahoo announced its demise in a blogpost that detailed the latest round of products and services it plans to shut down.
Yahoo acquired the AltaVista technology, index and name when it bought ad firm Overture in 2003.
After the shutdown anyone seeking the AltaVista site will be redirected to the main Yahoo search page.
AltaVista was launched in 1995 when search engines generally did a poor job of logging information on the web’s rapidly growing population of sites.
The search engine was popular because it had indexed about 20 million WebPages, far more than any rival at the time. It developed its own “crawler” technology that did the job of finding WebPages and logging what was on them. It also used fast computers behind the scenes to return results quickly.
The combination made AltaVista one of the top web destinations until 2001 when the number of searches conducted via Google overtook it.
The software behind AltaVista was created by US computer scientists Paul Flaherty and Louis Monier and Briton Michael Burrows while all three worked in the research labs of DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation).
In 1998, DEC was bought by PC maker Compaq which started AltaVista’s long decline. It was sold off in 1999 to a venture capital firm who prepared an IPO that was abandoned in the wake of the dotcom crash of 2001. AltaVista was then bought by Overture in 2003 and became part of Yahoo when that firm was bought later that year.
Search analyst Danny Sullivan wrote a eulogy for AltaVista on the Search Engine Land site saying the search service was “loved” during its brief heyday and that it deserved a better send off than Yahoo had given it.
“Yes, it was time for you to be retired,” he wrote. “But you deserved your own post, not having your closure mixed in among the other many products being axed.”