AltaVista Unveils Re-Designed Internet Portal

In an effort to jumpstart its standing among Yahoo! and other leading power players, Internet portal Alta Vista unveiled its revamped look today.

The launch will be accompanied by a $120 million marketing campaign that Alta Vista executives hope will lead to increased recognition among Web consumers.

“We’re putting our foot down and saying we are a new media commerce network to be reckoned with,” said Alta Vista Chief Executive Rod Schrock. “We have a world-class network of services and now is the time to promote our brand.”

Part of that new promotion will include an expenditure of $120 million (US$) between now and July, with $8 million being spent on today’s launch. Alta Vista, majority-owned by Internet incubator CMGI, Inc. (Nasdaq: CMGI) claims that the budget for the campaign is the most expensive in technology history.

Narrowing The User Gap

Alta Vista will need to show real innovation to close the user gap between its portal and distant leader Yahoo!. In August, Alta Vista attracted nine million visitors, making it the 15th most visited site on the Web, according to Media Metrix.

That ranking puts Alta Vista far behind industry leader Yahoo!, with its 33 million hits in August. Additionally, Alta Vista trails Lycos, a company that also announced changes in its shopping portal today.

To narrow that gap, Alta Vista reportedly will place more emphasis on e-commerce, with content from 100,000 retailers. In the past, Alta Vista’s had some major consumer problems, including hundreds of complaints related to late delivery of purchased items.

“ didn’t have the best reputation in the world,” said Ken Cassar, analyst for Jupiter Communications, Inc. With the overhaul, will be only one of many merchants on the site. Users will be able to access a number of online stores simultaneously.

However, Cassar observes, the new shopping feature does not offer features that are distinctive from those offered on Yahoo! or

“It’s certainly an improvement over what they have now,” he said. “What’s interesting to me is that the commerce sites and the portals have all started to look a lot like each other.”

What’s New With Alta Vista

The new Alta Vista does, however, feature services not necessarily found on other portals. A new personalized portal designed to bring a new level of immediacy to the Internet will offer real-time stock quotes, live sports scores, live breaking news and even live video cameras offering traffic reports from major cities.

Additionally, upgraded search capabilities will cover more of the Internet. One common complaint about Alta Vista has been its inability to narrow a search down to truly useful information. The new portal reportedly categorizes features to address this weakness.

AltaVista will also feature in-depth product reviews and side-by-side product comparisons that keep the portal from appearing to endorse any specific product or brand. The product reviews come from both “industry experts” and consumers, through a joint effort by AltaVista and and an exclusive relationship with ZDNet for reviews of computers, printers and electronic products.

Those looking for specific brand name products can use the site’s “Brand Connection” page, which lists featured products from manufacturers such as Hasbro, Yamaha, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, Canon and Symantec. To complete the shopping process, AltaVista allows users to compare prices, availability and ratings from for hundreds of online retailers, find directions to a local retailer or buy an item directly from AltaVista

Just In Time?

Recent figures from Web industry watchers would seem to indicate a leveling off of Internet growth. Media Metrix reported in September that only 240,000 Americans became new Web users. Traffic to Yahoo! dropped 4% in September.

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