AltaVista Video Search

AltaVista was one of the first successful search engines working from 1995 to 2013. AltaVista started under the domain and paid $3.3 million to acquire in 1997. The search engine was developed by Network Systems Laboratory and the Western Research Laboratory of Digital Equipment Corporation. In the following years, the search engine was sold with the owner companies first from Digital to Compaq and then from Compaq to Overture, which was sold almost directly to Yahoo. While AltaVista initially provided Yahoo's search results, Yahoo later offered AltaVista's search results. According to Danny Sullivan (see AltaVista web search), Digital didn't develop AltaVista to build a successful search engine, they created it to sell their computer technology by demonstrating the mass of data their supercomputers can manage. AltaVista offered numerous vertical search offers over the years.

According to AltaVista, it offered the first video search via its search portal. The video search was launched in 1999 and was offered as part of the search portal until 2009. After that AltaVista only offered a link to the Yahoo video search.

AltaVista's first video search engine was developed by Virage (a US company). Virage never offered a video search engine of its own, but rather offered its services to external providers. The first video AltaVista advertised was the "Clinton Testimony Video". The following warning has been added to the video: "The Clinton Testimony video may contain objectionable material."

Virage offered a video cataloging technology that created a searchable index of a video. So it was possible to find and display single video sequences. Later AltaVista offered its own video search.

After the takeover of AltaVista by Yahoo in 2003, the Yahoo video search was used.

Language Multilingual

Launched 1999
Closed 2013

Developer AltaVista

Country of Origin US America

1999 - 2003 Compaq Computer Corporation
2003 - 2003 Overture
2003 - 2009 Yahoo Inc

Topic Music, Sound & Video Search engine

Region No Limitation

Technical functionalities
Search Interface / Search API
Robot/Crawler based, algorithmic search
Video file search

Used SeEn Virage Video Search Engine
AltaVista Video search

Older Version Internet Archive / WebCite

2007: »The video search feature of the popular search engine AltaVista is a tool that enables you to search within hundreds of video channels, both for media publishers content and user-generated content. Users can search videos by format and duration: below every item found, AltaVista displays the source, the size and the total duration of the video. By clicking on the "more info" link, users can also read a description of each video before watching it.« Source

Danny Sullivan (2002): »AltaVista makes multimedia content — images, audio files and video files, available to searches from its multimedia indexes, as explained below. Users access the multimedia index either through the tabs on AltaVista’s results page ... or by visiting the various multimedia services directly.
AltaVista’s Video Search features content that comes from crawling the web as well as video files provided by news, entertainment and financial broadcast companies.« Source


Critical points

Features & Functionality


See also AltaVista web search: Source

References & further Publications

Wikipedia (EN):
Wikipedia (Others):

Other Sources

Virage creates world's first video search engine for the Web URL:
Virage Company Info URL:
Danny Sullivan (2002): How AltaVista Works URL:

Created: 2019-11-06