When I read the sad news today that Yahoo is preparing to terminate AltaVista–the most important search engine of the pre-Google era–I got all misty. And then I had an odd sense of deja vu. It turns out that there was a false rumor back in 2010 that AltaVista was about to go away, and I came to terms with its impending doom and wrote about it at the time. And then it didn’t die, and I didn’t notice it was still around–which is a sad commentary on the site’s utter irrelevance right there.
In 2013 as in 2010, I’m happy to pause and remember the era when AltaVista introduced us to the possibility, astonishing at the time, that it might be able to use the web to learn almost anything, almost instantly. But I’m not sorry that Yahoo is shutting it down, since it’s long been a slight variant of Yahoo Search which nobody uses and nobody cares about.
(O.K., there must be someone out there who uses AltaVista–but I wonder who, and why?)
Assuming that the site does indeed vanish from the web–I imagine that altavista.com will then redirect to yahoo.com or search.yahoo.com–we can remove it from the list of once-mighty websites which live on only in greatly diminished form. That’ll free up time to wonder about a related question: Why on earth does CompuServe still exist, in a version so archaic that it refers to Windows XP as “the latest Windows operating system?”