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AltaVista adds customized, financial services

Fresh from its sale to Internet holding company CMGI, AltaVista launches features to compete against Yahoo and the other large portal sites.

Fresh from its sale to Internet holding company CMGI, AltaVista is launching personalized and finance-oriented services to compete more successfully against Yahoo and the other large portal sites.

The site has quietly launched a new finance channel and a customizable area similar to the My Yahoo and My Excite pages. Slated for official debut tomorrow morning, the two areas will allow AltaVista to go up against some of the most popular features of the bigger portal sites.

AltaVista has long occupied a kind of second-tier role in the portal world. Originally created by Digital Equipment as one of the earliest Web search tools, it languished while Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and Infoseek began adding personalized home pages, games, free email, and other Web tools.

Following Digital's purchase by Compaq, the site began recasting itself along the lines of its more aggressive rivals, offering services such as shopping channels. Traffic statistics continued to lag behind the bigger portals, but AltaVista has continually said that its traffic is undercounted by statistics that focus on home users.

Now the company hopes to use the momentum gained by its still-fresh merger with CMGI as a springboard to higher visibility.

AltaVista will spend $10 million over the next ten weeks advertising the new customizable page and its finance channel. In addition, the company will give out another $5 million in electronic gift certificates to people who use its new "MicroPortal," a downloadable portal-like application that will run on a user's desktop.

The MicroPortal will be available at the end of this month, the company said.

Like most of the other big portals, AltaVista's new finance site contains stock quotes and frequently updated news headlines and offers users the ability to manage personal portfolios.

Information from this area automatically will be entered in a users' customized My AltaVista, which also will contain news and local area content selected by the user.