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AltaVista skips updates to regional search sites

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Searching for a Web page that was created after mid-April this year? Better not try any of the 22 regional AltaVista search sites.

No new Web pages have been added for months to the index behind the regional search sites, AltaVista confirmed Tuesday. The local sites are supposed to generate search results relevant for Web users in a specific country. By default, all local sites search in the regional index.

AltaVista, which went online in 1995 as the Web's first full-text search engine, heavily promotes the regional sites. When a user from the Netherlands, for example, logs on to AltaVista.com, a message pops up urging the user to go to the regional AltaVista site.

AltaVista said the index is outdated because the database that holds the regional URLs is being merged with the main international database.

"In April, we started the process of merging the one physical index that holds all the 22 regional sub-indexes with the international index. You have to stop adding URLs if you are doing a merge," said Ian Hegerty, technical architect for AltaVista.

Ultimately the merger of the two indexes should result in a better search service, but the new Web index won't be ready for about another month, according to Hegerty. He also said that the database merger is not related to AltaVista's restructuring or to the closure of several of its international offices.

"This is a consolidation exercise, but the justification is technical, to improve user experience. The regional indexes will be back and much better than before. It should take between two and four weeks for the new regional indexes to be online," Hegerty said.

AltaVista sees no reason to alert Web users or Web masters who might be wondering why after four months their Web site has appeared in AltaVista's international index, but still can't be found using the regional search service, he said.

"Most Web masters are aware that indexing pages takes time. Typically we update every six weeks. Now we've skipped a cycle because of the merge," said Hegerty. He made no comment when it was pointed out that more than one cycle has been skipped, as it has been over four months since new pages were added to the regional indexes.

AltaVista has local pages for: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

AltaVista, in Palo Alto, is at http://www.altavista.com/

The IDG News Service is a Network World affiliate.

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