AltaVista seeks deeper search

The site strikes a deal with a natural-language technology developer and image search engine maker.

Internet navigation site AltaVista today unveiled a number of enhancements as well as a partnership with a natural-language technology developer and image search engine maker.

Calling it the most significant update to AltaVista, a subsidiary of Compaq Computer, company executives said the upgraded site now features the AV Full View Search, a combination of the three main search techniques--index, directory, and question-and-answer.

The company said the new Ask AltaVista capability allows users to ask questions in plain English and receive a short list of intelligently matched, confirmation questions as well as AltaVista's keyword-search results.

Ask AltaVista is the result of a partnership announced today between AltaVista and Ask Jeeves, a provider of natural-language, question-answering, Web-navigation products and services, in which Ask Jeeves agreed to license its technology to AltaVista.

Ask Jeeves technology is able to understand questions by using an advanced natural-language parsing process. The software allows Ask Jeeves to ascertain the different parts of each question, determine how each word within the question is being used, and understand the question's meaning. The parsing technology is linked to a knowledgebase of question-templates and answer-links.

The upgraded AltaVista site also offers a multimedia search feature called the AV Photo Finder, providing navigation of more than 10 million Internet pictures, the company said.

Photo Finder is the result of a partnership between Virage, an image and video search engine maker, and Compaq. The two companies' engineers collaborated to develop AV Photo Finder. The unveiling of AV Photo Finder represents the first joint development project and commercial venture between Virage and Compaq's AltaVista division.

In addition, AltaVista is introducing the AV Family Filter, which lets concerned users automatically filter out offensive material while they search the Internet.

Finally, the AltaVista site now includes AV Ease & Relevance Architecture, a collection of five new techniques that makes searching more precise and easier to use, the company said.

"This new site is clean, simple, relevant, and to the point--it makes navigating the Internet more effective than ever before," Rod Schrock, senior vice president and group general manager of consumer products, said in a statement. "We expect it to have great consumer appeal that will ensure the rapid, continued growth of AltaVista."

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