AltaVista does the Australian crawl

According to Vesy Crichton, international general manager for AltaVista Europe, the site represents the "biggest index of local content".

"We'll run the Australian crawl on a daily basis," he said. "This will get round to all Australian sites every 30 days - although the more popular sites will be catalogued more frequently."

Crichton says Australians represent the ninth largest group of users of the main AltaVista.com search, with just under 1 million using the site each month - which made it an attractive choice for a localised search. Australian visitors to AltaVista will be given the option to click through to the local site.

Besides evaluating how to include information from newsgroups in search results, AltaVista is also looking at adding vertical searches in areas like finance or sport, WAP searches and an option that advises visitors to rerun their saved searches if new content has been added since their last search.

On the issue of WAP, international business development director for AltaVista Europe, Martin Keogh, admitted that the adoption of WAP was "being held back by a paucity" of content. "By doing this we may encourage providers to create more content," he said.

Yahoo! already offers WAP services in Australia, including access to mail and information services like stock prices and news headlines.

AltaVista's strategy to launch the local sites is estimated to have cost the company $US25 million, according to Crichton. Run from the European operations, the project has also avoided the cost cutting that hit AltaVista US last month, which resulted in 25 per cent of American staff losing their jobs.

Crichton says the company has a "stick to its knitting" strategy to focus on search rather than battling the more established players in the portal market. "We're focusing on being famous at search," he said.

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Deanne McIntosh

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