AltaVista searches for its roots

The site is joining the ranks of its portal competitors by getting back to basics with improved search capabilities.

AltaVista is joining the ranks of its competitors by strengthening its search engine, a trend in portals that is bringing the site back to its roots.

The site, taken over by Compaq Computer in its acquisition of Digital Equipment, made two announcements yesterday regarding its Discovery search utility. Now in beta testing, the software integrates PC desktop and Web functions, allowing a user to search for information within Web pages, email, and more than 100 document and file types without changing applications, AltaVista said.

The move reflects the most recent front in the portal wars. In May, Yahoo stuck a deal to add search technology from Inktomi to its service, Lycos upgraded the search function on its Tripod community site, and Excite also improved its search offerings.

AltaVista will integrate text analysis software from Inxight, which the company says "intelligently extracts key sentences from documents."

Inxight Summarizer displays summarized Web page content and automatically highlights key phrases within a document so that users can easily see the context--"similar to using a highlighting pen on a paper document," the firm said.

AltaVista also will integrate Marimba's Castanet "push" technology, which lets users broadcast and manage software applications over the Net.

"Using Castanet, AltaVista can distribute and update AltaVista Discovery to its end users virtually any time, no longer having to wait for a major upgrade to introduce incremental improvements of its product," Kim Polese, president and chief executive of Marimba, said in a statement.