AltaVista Co. will disconnect the last of its portal-like services next month by pulling the plug on its free e-mail service in the United States.
The decision, which affects 400,000 AltaVista.com e-mail account holders, comes as AltaVista refocuses its attention on providing search technologies for the consumer and corporate markets.
“We really do believe that there are dedicated e-mail providers that are better equipped to provide users with e-mail services,” said Krista Thomas, director of marketing communications at AltaVista, Palo Alto, CA.
Thomas clarified that AltaVista.net e-mail account holders, roughly less than 100,000, will not be affected. That service is provided in partnership with Mail.com, an e-mail service provider.
With this move, AltaVista completes a two-year effort to go back to its search engine roots.
AltaVista was created in the spring of 1995 when scientists at Digital Equipment Corp. developed a way to store every word of every page on the Internet in a fast, searchable text index. With that, the world's first searchable, full-text database on the Web was created.
Another invention of AltaVista was the Internet's first multilingual search capability. It had the first search technology to support Japanese, Chinese and Korean languages.
Holding company CMGI Inc. is majority owner of AltaVista, once the property of Compaq Computer Corp.
Compaq acquired Digital Equipment in 1995. CMGI bought 85 percent of AltaVista in fall 1998.
An estimated 50 million unique visitors each month visit AltaVista's 22 country Web sites, the company said. These visitors used AltaVista's search engine. The international sites' e-mail service will continue.
E-mails will be sent each week through noon PST March 31. Consumers will be reminded to save e-mails, copy addresses and inform correspondents of the shutdown and change in address.
Thomas said the company will not exploit the e-mail database either.
“We will not be doing anything with the lists as we believe in protecting the privacy of our users,” she said.
Interestingly, only 200,000, or half of AltaVista.com's U.S. e-mail user database are active.
“As users become aware of AltaVista's pure search focus, usage of the [e-mail] service has waned,” the company said in an e-mail to users.