The gist of the story is that Alta owns 38 "major" patents covering spidering and indexing. It is rather gray area since many of the patents appear to over run territory of other patents owned by non other the the N ational S ecurity A gency of the United States. The N S-A is rumored to hold close to 100 patents covering a wide array of data mining, indexing, and interpretation on both text AND voice and languages skills (read: they can hook it up to a phone line and get a print out on-the-fly of all audio conversations in dozens different languages - re: e-c h elon).
>They [Altavista] were the first to spider and index the Web
That is true, so far as I can attest. We were all swapping reciprocals on our "other links" pages or submitting to various directories until Digital rolled out AV to show off their computer technology. Like the Unisys patent on .gifs, I expect AV has something here on the spidering aspect.
Hey c'mon, rc. AV started mid december 1995. By that time Lycos had been around since the spring, and Webcrawler for a year before that. "Heralded as the first Internet search engine, WebCrawler was created in early 1994 at the University of Washington." (from Excite press release)
As I said, so far as I can attest. I vaguely remember WebCrawler rolling out of University of Washington, but can't really peg Lycos for a start date. Though I don't doubt the authenticity of their respective dates, I can tell you that nothing happened much on the traffic front until AV came to town.