Thursday, December 16, 2010

The end of an era...

Before google - there was altavista. And now altavista, originally of DEC, is finally shutting down. I remember it well - the origins of babelfish and the best search engine of its time.

Things have certainly changed in the last 15 years or so. I can still remember getting to the "end" of Yahoo - back when it was small enough to do that. It was before yahoo got this big - back when it was a directory and not a "portal" (before "portal" was part of our common nomenclature). Back when the Yahoo random link was the "stumbleupon" of its time.

Clicking through that old set of yahoo pages can be interesting - the early ads are still there - "devour the web in almost half the time" - "Rockwell k56flex is here". I remember my first 56kbs modem - it was amazing in its time :) And it was a Rockwell.


OpenID bledbetter said....

Man, I'm definitely gonna miss AltaVista, too, if for nothing else than nostalgia alone. (Not as nostalgic about the memories of doing tech support for an ISP for customers with buggy 56kbps modems, of course!)

Thu Dec 16, 10:55:00 PM EST  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

I honestly though AltaVista would never beat the Yahoo directory. I couldn't really accept the idea all the material on all the computers on the internet squashed into one computer (cluster/network/whatever) - it seemed like some sort of magician's trick that would someday be caught out.
I wonder if they'll keep the domain name. It would be fitting if they gave or sold it to the wayback machine internet archive.

Thu Dec 16, 11:37:00 PM EST  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

Ah yes, you had the 56kbps and you thought you were king of the world. Wow, have times have changed.

My word: exadfa (are we sure Oracle's not sponsoring captcha now?)

Fri Dec 17, 10:42:00 AM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Next thing you know, death of usenet, news at 11.

word: dewayea

Fri Dec 17, 03:48:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Hoek said....

Just out of nostalgia I Altavista'd Google and Googled Altavista a few times.
Man, it was fun!
And then changed my Glubel Prefferences (chunges epply tu ell Google serfeeces), as follows:
Interffece-a Lungooege-a
Deespley Google-a teeps und messeges in: "Bork, bork, bork!"
Ah, sweet nostalgia...
What should I do next: play Boulderdash from tape or watch them old Muppet video's again on my Video 2000 (I should have learned from that that formats do matter)?
Life's full of tough choices...
Where's my Optimizer when I need one?
Anyway: apparently Yahoo has switched from Rule to Cost based as well ;-)

+disclaimer: weekend+

Fri Dec 17, 08:34:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I guess I'll just go back to playing Wizard's Quest.... ;-D

A slight twinge when I read this, as I never spent a lot of time on Altavista (but used babelfish frequently, and still do). Given Yahoo!'s predilection for being a follower and not a leader, I'm not surprised they are experiencing underperforming sites.

"You are at Wit's End - paths lead off in all directions....."

Bill S.

Mon Dec 20, 08:55:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Even more a sign of the times, is the fact that we can be nostalgic about something that is really not in the distant past at all!

...I do fondly recall my Timex Sinclair.

Mon Dec 20, 09:41:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

On an other note, I got 'introduced' to you through newgroups.. (oracle.server.misc)

Wonder if those still exist...

Tue Dec 28, 12:21:00 AM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....


the groups (comp.databases.*) still exist:


Not quite like they were in 1995 - but still around

Tue Dec 28, 09:58:00 AM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

word: calati

Tue Dec 28, 02:08:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Hi Tom,

Have you checked the google groups links which you have given above, seems like there are some "not so database" related links available in there... is this a correct link?

Wed Dec 29, 10:40:00 AM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....


the groups always had spam, they seem to be overrun with it now.

Wed Dec 29, 10:47:00 AM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

And nearly all the spam is from gmail accounts. Wouldn't it be nice if google would respond to complaints about that?

word: pienni

Thu Dec 30, 11:48:00 AM EST  

Blogger Kyle Hailey said....

Dan Rosensweig former COO at Yahoo responding to the question: Why did Google succeed in search over Yahoo?

"We were many things to many people.
They were one great thing to everybody
Sometimes it's just what you believe in.
It's how the question get's phrased.
When I came to yahoo people were not interested
in investing in search because there was no way
to make money.
Google didn't care about making money
They cared about improving peoples ability to search
and they were originally going to be enterprise.
Yahoo was actually using their search engine.
Then something happened.
Somebody created a business model around search.
To get around patents Google improved on Overtures business model.
The logic [Yahoo] had was you bid the most you come up first.
It was sort of self policing.
Why would you bid the most to come up first
if you weren't the most relevant?
Google figured something out.
It's not who bids the most,
its how you generate the most amount of value
off each click.
Its a combination of location and price and click through.
That enabled them to make more money on every click
than we did which allowed them to invest a lot more money in increased
monetization engines and then buy distribution.
They could buy distribution at half the cost that we could
or a third the cost that we could.
Here we were as a public company trying to balance multiple
businesses and they were focused on one
and they were making more money on every click
and they were able to run the table successfully in search."

Why do companies succeed? Big question with lots of answers.
Google and the mass media seem to propagate the story that Google's search is better and that's why Google won. Clean and simple. Black and white. People like black and white, but the story is more complicated than that. The search space was competitive when Google came on the scene. I personally used Altavista before Google came one the scene and well after. I compared many of the search results and I was always impressed with Altavista. Google finally won my heart when the came out with The simple map interface was so logical and so simple that it put mapquest to shame for good reason.

But the story of search much more complicated and interesting. For more reading check out

- Kyle

Thu Jan 06, 11:51:00 PM EST  


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