AltaVista is one of the largest and most popular general Web search engines. However, it does not always behave as advertised nor deliver the results expected. This page aims to document both ongoing and short-lived inconsistent behavior on AltaVista. For more details on how AltaVista is supposed to work, see the AltaVista Review.
TIME OUTS: In order to provide results quickly, AltaVista may stop processing a search and only provide partial results. So the searcher can never know if all results have been retrieved. Repeating the exact same search several times in a row may find additional results. This problem and the inaccurate counting may also influence many of the other inconsistencies reported here.
COUNTING: AltaVista can't count accurately. The numbers present are often estimates and can change greatly, especially with complex search statements that use multiple fields. For example, on 5/20/99
Adding a language limit can cause some strange results including making the total number of results increase. An example reported Nov. 16, 1999 on Web4Lib demonstrates this. This problem only seems to occur on the simple search, not the advanced:
CASE SENSITIVITY: A search in lower case is supposed to find all occurrences of the term in lower, upper, and mixed case. However, sometimes it does not work like that. For example, a search on
DIACRITICS: Similar to the case sensitivity inconsistency is the diacritic inconsistency. According to AltaVista's documentation, entering a search terms with diacritics will only find exact matches of the term with exactly those diacritics. Searching without diacritics will find the form with or without the diacritics. Thus,
url: field Starting in March 1999, the
title: field The
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