I was a dyed-in-the wool AltaVista user.  I learned the syntax for advanced queries, and was totally amazed by the power of the search engine.  It was definitely my favorite. You had to think about and carefully craft your queries, because each query would take a few seconds, sometimes more.

Then someone told me about this upstart, Google, and raved about it.  Skeptical, I bopped over to the cartoonishly colored site to try a few queries.

When I made my first query, the results snapped up instantly.  I snorted.  “They didn’t even do a real search, they just tossed up some results to make me think it was fast.”

But then I looked at the results, and they were shockingly relevant.

I did another query, and another.  Same instant response, same amazingly relevant results.  No crazy syntax needed, it was as if the search engine was reading my mind.  No graphical banner ads slowing down page load time, no extra cruft.  The spartan presentation and precise results immediately had me hooked.

You may notice this on your Google searches:

“About 387,000 results (0.38 seconds)”

That information has been there since day one, so that users could differentiate delays due to their connection versus delays due to the search engine.  The time stamp is irrelevant in this modern era, since subsecond search is the norm.  But back when Google first appeared, the subsecond search was simply unheard of.

Google produced relevant results quickly in a pleasing, clutter free interface. No crazy syntax needed!  Since results were so fast I could just rapid fire query variations at Google to refine my results, no special pondering required beforehand.

Back in those days, Google also had swagger.  They were so confident in their results, they put links at the bottom of every search result page to launch the exact same query on any competitor’s search engine, whether Lycos, Yahoo, or Altavista.  Since I knew I could make a single click through to another engine if my result was unsatisfactory, Google became my first stop for all searches.

Within a few months, it was the only search engine I used.  And it still is.

Answer by Phillip Remaker

Why did Altavista search engine lose ground so quickly to Google?

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