AltaVista opens its source code

The portal will begin giving away the source code for its search engine and will start paying sites that successfully refer people to the portal

Internet portal AltaVista.com announced Tuesday it will begin giving away the source code for its search engine and will start paying sites that successfully refer people to the portal.

As part of its new AltaVista Affiliate Network, the portal will let Web sites both big and small offer AltaVista services such as search, stock quotes and language translation free of charge. In addition, AltaVista, owned by CMGI, plans to pay the sites referring people 3 cents for every click-through. AltaVista CEO Rod Schrock, estimates that each visitor will need to visit at least four pages on AltaVista to make the payoff profitable.

"It’s really a long-term initiative," said Schrock. "It is aggressive."

More than 1,600 sites have applied for membership in the program. Schrock estimates AltaVista will have 10,000 "affiliates" in around a month. AltaVista plans to target the owners of personal home pages in the future. To join the "network," a site must demonstrate that it is a valid, working Web site that is updated on an ongoing basis.

"We want to make our brand more pervasive on the Web," explained Schrock.

AltaVista estimates that approximately 60 percent of its traffic originates outside North America. The company sees this initiative as an opportunity to cement itself as a major player in the global Internet market.

Despite a recent advertising initiative featuring celebrities such as Pamela Anderson that appeared to target a broad-based Internet audience, Schrock denies the Affiliate Network marks a change in strategy away from trying to compete with generalised portals like Yahoo! and America Online. Schrock, who just celebrated his one-year anniversary with the company, claims that was never the AltaVista strategy to begin with.

"We are not trying to be a general-purpose portal," he explained. "We want to be world-class in a few areas. Those are going to be search, e-commerce and financial information services. Probably over time we’ll pick another area or two."

In addition to giving affiliates access to its services, AltaVista will also provide, free of charge, traffic reports that contain information about advertising click-through rates and total number of visitors.

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