For Immediate Release


Assistive Search Interface Offers Dynamic Feedback, Helping People Quickly Find Precisely What They Seek


Palo Alto, Calif., - July 2, 2002 – AltaVista Company, a leading global provider of search services and software and a majority-owned operating company of CMGI, Inc. (Nasdaq: CMGI), today announced the launch of AltaVista Prisma technology. AltaVista Prisma is a highly effective assistive search technology that enables people to easily find relevant Web sites, news stories, audio, video and image files available on the Internet.

AltaVista Prisma gives people the power to find precisely what they seek through a dynamic and easy-to use interface. The technology instantly processes a given search query and returns a 360-degree spectrum of the most strongly associated words, phrases, names and concepts. This instantaneous feedback helps to narrow search results while revealing important parallel topics and surfacing the most useful paths of inquiry.

For novice searchers, the technology acts as a helpful refinement tool. Advanced searchers, including educators, information professionals and researchers of every kind will find it useful in the ideation and knowledge discovery stage of any article or research project.

"AltaVista Prisma delivers the full power of AltaVista’s patented search technology in an intuitive and user-friendly interface," said Fred Bullock, Chief Marketing Officer for AltaVista’s Internet division. "It’s a very effective way for people to tap the depth of resources and breadth of information available on the Web in a more engaging, efficient and productive way."

How AltaVista Prisma Works:

  • When a person enters a query (e.g. Beatles), AltaVista Prisma instantly scans through the text of the most relevant Internet search results to select the 12 most strongly associated words, phrases, names or concepts, called "AltaVista Prisma terms."
  • The AltaVista Prisma terms, which are instantly displayed in an interactive panel immediately below the search box on the search results page, represent a 360-degree spectrum of possible meanings, presenting opportunities for search refinement (e.g. "Paul McCartney"), search expansion (e.g. Rock) and parallel search (e.g. Fab as in "Fab Four").
  • The complete set of relevancy-ranked Web results still appears below the AltaVista Prisma terms.
  • When the user clicks on a particular AltaVista Prisma term, that term is automatically appended to the original search query term (e.g. Beatles + "Paul McCartney"), and a new search takes place – instantly returning yet another (second-tier) of AltaVista Prisma terms while narrowing the search result set below.
  • Clicking on a second-tier AltaVista Prisma term will further focus results sets (e.g. Beatles + "Paul McCartney" + biographies), surfacing the most relevant Web pages.
  • Each AltaVista Prisma term is also followed by hyper-linked chevrons ( >> ) which present the searcher with the opportunity to launch a new search on that term – taking their search in a direction that may be more relevant to their original need (e.g. "Heather Mills" if actually seeking information on McCartney’s new bride).

Once the user has clicked on two AltaVista Prisma terms in a given query session, the technology is replaced with a "Go back" link. Clicking the "Go back" link will return the user to his or her previous search on the second tier of AltaVista Prisma terms.

Optimizing the Internet Search Experience

AltaVista beta-tested the technology with a random three percent of users under the name "AltaVista Paraphrase." The beta test was highly successful, revealing a steady increase in adoption over time and strong click-through rates. AltaVista Prisma users engaged in more extensive search sessions and performed more searches overall. Blind usability testing also revealed that searchers preferred the AltaVista Prisma terms to those generated by competing categorization and clustering technologies by a factor of four-to-one.

Innovation and Improvement Continues

The launch of AltaVista Prisma is the latest of a series of significant improvements AltaVista’s new management team has brought about through their commitment to enhancing the user experience on the company’s 22 global Internet search sites. Recently, the company has also:

  • Increased the size of its index to 1.1 billion items, including more than 140 million audio, video and image files;
  • Launched a Webmaster search page, a dedicated online resource for Webmasters, Search Engine Marketers and Online Entrepreneurs at;
  • Transitioned its query processing to automatically "And" search terms for greater precision and increased relevance.

Availability and International Implementation

Effective today, AltaVista Prisma is available on AltaVista’s U.S. site (, Canadian site (, U.K. site (, Irish site (, Australian site (, New Zealand site ( and Indian site (

The technology currently returns terms from English language pages. If most of the pages in a given result set are non-English, the technology does not appear. In these cases, selecting "English" from the pull-down language menu on the search box will cause AltaVista Prisma terms to appear if sufficient English language Web results exist. Support for additional languages will be available in the coming months.

To learn more, and to try the new technology, go to

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About AltaVista Company

AltaVista is a leading global provider of search services and software. The company’s patented technology continues to set the pace, making AltaVista a leading search engine among Web users and premier provider of high-powered search software to intranet, enterprise and e-commerce clients around the globe. AltaVista is a majority-owned operating company of CMGI, Inc. (Nasdaq: CMGI). For more information, see and

AltaVista is a registered trademark, and AltaVista Prisma is a trademark of AltaVista Company.


Media Contacts:

Krista Thomas

AltaVista Company


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