AltaVista to roll out online newsstand

By Michael Liedtke AP Business Writer
Monday March 19, 2001

Search engine hopes to keep results more current 


SAN FRANCISCO – Web search engine AltaVista will add an online newsstand to its main index Monday to make its results more topical and useful to surfers looking for up-to-the-minute information. 

With the new service, Palo Alto-based AltaVista will automatically produce the top stories related to search requests. Clicking on a news center at the top search page will provide a complete index of all the latest online stories about the requested topic. 

The new feature, licensed from San Francisco-based Moreover, addresses a glaring shortcoming for even the most powerful search engines. 

Even though they have indexes covering a staggering amount of information on the Web, the top search engines rarely produce results that pick up on breaking news developments. 

“This is definitely going to be a big plus for search engine users,” said Danny Sullivan, an industry analyst for Searchenginewatch.com. 

“Right now when you use a traditional search engine to find the latest news on the Web, you’re really using the wrong tool. It’s like you are using a hammer when you really need a screwdriver.” 

The information void stems from how search engines find out what’s on the Web. The engines rely on computers, known as “crawlers,” that comb most Web sites every 15 to 30 days and then update the information. 

The lag time between when an article is first posted on a Web site and when it shows up in a search engine’s database means vital information might not be produced on a topic. 

For instance, enter “Tim Koogle” in a major search engine and you will get plenty of links to information about the Yahoo! Corp. CEO. But none of the top results would indicate that Koogle is relinquishing the reins of the company or produce articles explaining why because the decision was announced two weeks ago. 

Even Yahoo’s own search engine doesn’t provide the latest details about Koogle. The No. 1 result on Koogle is an article from May 2000. 

Moreover’s technology delivers the latest articles, including information posted on the same day, by searching more than 2,400 newsy sites every 15 minutes or so. Some publishers pay Moreover to review their Web sites, a structure that could lead to news articles from some Web sites will be featured more prominently in the search results. 

Privately held Moreover’s lead investors include the Reuters news service. The company has raised a total of $21 million in venture capital and expects to be profitable a year from now, said CEO Nick Denton, a former business reporter for Financial Times. 

Moreover introduced its technology last summer, but only recently began to license it to other sites. Before Monday’s announcement, Moreover’s highest profile deal was with Inktomi Corp., which incorporated the specialty search engine at NBCi.com and iWon.com. 

As one of the world’s most popular search engines, AltaVista “is the one deal that should take us over the top,” Denton said. 

Terms of the licensing agreement weren’t disclosed, but Moreover doesn’t expect to make much money from the partnership. Denton said Moreover expects to make most of its money through licenses with companies that use the service on their Web sites or Intranets. 

Moreover already is in talks to license its news-searching service to Yahoo and two other major search engines, Google and Excite, Denton said. 

Mountain View-based Google already provides links to three news stories on some searches and plans to offer more later this year, said spokesman David Krane. He declined to comment if the improvements would include a deal with Moreover.