A temporal comparison of AltaVista Web searching

Bernard J. Jansen, Amanda Spink, Jan Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


Major Web search engines, such as AltaVista, are essential tools in the quest to locate online information. This article reports research that used transaction log analysis to examine the characteristics and changes in AltaVista Web searching that occurred from 1998 to 2002. The research questions we examined are (1) What are the changes in AltaVista Web searching from 1998 to 2002? (2) What are the current characteristics of AltaVista searching, including the duration and frequency of search sessions? (3) What changes in the information needs of AltaVista users occurred between 1998 and 2002? The results of our research show (1) a move toward more interactivity with increases in session and query length, (2) with 70% of session durations at 5 minutes or less, the frequency of interaction is increasing, but it is happening very quickly, and (3) a broadening range of Web searchers' information needs, with the most frequent terms accounting for less than 1% of total term usage. We discuss the implications of these findings for the development of Web search engines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)559-570
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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