"Not everybody is our target audience," said Mel Bohse, vice-president, Asia Pacific, AltaVista at a search clinic organised for journalists at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on July 23, 2002. She was describing the profile of an average AltaVista user, who, she claims, is a net veteran with higher income and educational qualifications. He/she is older in comparison to his counterparts using Google and most importantly is looking out for precise search results as opposed to Google users who may log on to the site simply to have fun.
However, what began as a simple seminar to educate potential users about the search engine soon raged into a volatile debate on the advantages and disadvantages of AltaVista and its opponent, Google. "It is faster and provides a lot of options," said some scribes about Google. "Its ability to cache is fantastic, and provides a pretty good archives section," screamed another, even as a third one prompted, "Google is the default search engine for most in the country."
Rightly so. According to Nielsen/Netratings, a leading Internet audience information and analysis service available on www.searchenginewatch.com, the US web audience reach for the month of March 2002 (Internet users estimated to have searched on each site at some time during the month) in the case of Yahoo is 29.4 per cent, MSN is 28.1 per cent and Google is 25.3 per cent with AltaVista having a measly 5.4 per cent to its credit. For the parameter of time spent on each site, Google is the clear leader with 25.50 minutes followed by AskJeeves with 10.7 minutes and AOL with 10.50.
Despite being a measurement of the searching patterns of the US Internet population, the study could in a way be indicative of the Indian Internet population as well, which to a large extent relies heavily on Google for most of their search requirements.
As a young, high-flying executive in a Top 10 agency puts it, "Whenever I want to search, I always log on to Google. The information that a search on Google would throw up is enormous and there is much that I can pick and choose." Adds another avid surfer, "I would use Yahoo in the past, but now I have switched to Google because it is so much easier and relevant. Besides query-specific search results on Yahoo, you can also select from different categories. Google doesn't have anything like that, making my search a bit less complicated."
Interestingly, even a search on AltaVista throws up a number of categories in addition to the mandatory search results. For instance, a search tilted APJ Abdul Kalam on the Indian site www.in.altavista.com will throw up categories such as Compromise Candidate, India, Scientific, Government and Principal among sundry other titles whereas the global site throws more relevant search categories such as President, Ministry of Defense, Chairman, Secretary and Advisor among others. The AltaVista Prisma, the advanced search tool launched by the company around two weeks ago also throws up similar categories as the India-specific site.
What's more? Going by what Bohse had to say about providing up-to-date news-related stories within 24 to 48 hours, despite using the advanced search tool, nowhere on the global or Indian site would one find mention of the recent unanimous election of APJ Abdul Kalam as President. The nearest the search results come to are links to a July 15, 2002 article on the BBC World site highlighting that voting for the new Indian President had just ended! The second story also linked to a BBC article talks about APJ filing in his nomination papers for the post of President, which is more than a month old!
Google, on the other hand simply gives you a range of links (2,500 results to be precise) containing the text APJ Abdul Kalam. The search results page starts with a June 1998 personality profile of the President elect on the-week.com with the first page primarily devoted to articles about the man before being elected as President. Link No 5 on the first search page goes to a July 18 article in the Indian Express announcing the appointment of Kalam as the President.
"We crawl the entire web and index it," justifies Bohse. "We have fewer dead links as opposed to Google with the thrust on being linked to sites that provide good content, not to mention our comprehensive multi-media index, which Google doesn't have," she adds. © 2002 agencyfaqs!