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Commentary: Brand recognition gives AltaVista time to maneuver

AltaVista still represents a tremendous brand that is well known on the Internet and has a good reputation, giving it time to charter a course of action.

By Michal Halama, Gartner Analyst

The best thing AltaVista has going for it is the obvious.

AltaVista still represents a tremendous brand that is well known on the Internet and has a good and sound reputation. The search engine still works and is widely used.

The company's reputation has not suffered damage except among those--comparatively few--who have tried to get the free ISP service and were disappointed. Few such users will likely switch from a search engine that gets them results because an associated venture failed--that would be like iMac users deserting Apple because the Newton did not do all the company promised.

Certainly, AltaVista needs to improve as a search engine to keep up with other developing services that are also free. However, Gartner believes that AltaVista is not that far behind in user perception.

See news story:
Key AltaVista exec to retire at year-end
For AltaVista, the bottom line is that its consumer brand awareness continues to hold its value and, at least for now, will likely continue to bring in revenue from portal advertising, as well as structured and sponsored search results. (In a search engine for enterprises to buy, technical development is of course more important.) In the long term, whoever leads AltaVista needs to continue development efforts or else its value will disappear.

For now, the AltaVista brand has real financial value, so CMGI, which owns a majority stake, may well be tempted to sell it. However, that could undermine its Internet strategy. CMGI would be hard pressed to buy or build anything with as much recognition as AltaVista has.

(For related commentary on registering your site with top search engines, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.