Enterprises are launching “corporate portals,” gateway sites that act as an entryway to both a company’s Web presence and its intranet. In this column, Web consultant Kelly McKnight gives his opinion on a corporate portal, highlighting strengths and weaknesses that may translate to your company’s Web presence. The following index provides an objective look at the site’s features.
Kelly’s thoughts on the AltaVista Web site
I‘ve never used AltaVista much. As part 3 of my series on rating the search engines (you can read my reviews ofYahoo and Lycos here), I was looking forward to visiting it. Unfortunately, what I found, I didn’t like.

I must be Net-jaded. These search engines are beginning to look and act all alike. AltaVista had all the same junk as Lycos and Yahoo. Stocks. News. Chats. Travel. Movies. Yada-yada-hey-hey-hey.

The only thing that caught my eye was a section called “Raging Bull.” “Way cool,” I said to myself, “a whole section dedicated to the film by the same name!” Wrong; it was just another chat room in disguise. Stupid me.

I took a whirl in some of the other content areas. Since I’m planning a trip to Ireland, I thought I would check out the discount travel area. After filling out all the background and other info, I finally got a price. You guessed it, over twice the fare I had already found at another discount airfare site.

Next stop, “Find Anything.” I tried twice to find two friends who live in specific cities—and I am positive about where they live. Yet, AltaVista had never heard of ‘em.

Are you seeing a pattern here? My frustration with search engines is that they try to be all things to all people—and they fail. There are other sites that concentrate on doing one thing and doing it well. Those are the sites that work for me.

The verdict
Hey, search engines! Wake up! You had better evolve or you are going to disappear. If you don’t, a new breed of search engines like Ask Jeeves are going to blow you out of the water.

My advice to AltaVista is to rethink itself before it goes the way of the dinosaurs.

Kelly McKnight is a principal of Via Internet Studio, a consulting firm that specializes in corporate Web site design, Internet marketing, and e-commerce.

Now it’s your turn to review AltaVista Web site. Just click on Rate this site! and you can help separate the good from the bad from the ugly. It only takes a minute or two to complete your rating, so don’t waste any more time—rate this site now! For Kelly’s rating, scroll below and click to page two.