@hal12b: I'm with you; I didn't know it was still up.
I think it's important for us all to remember what happened to Alta Vista and how quickly it came about.
In brief, this is my recollection: At one point AV was the top tier search engine with an unlikely url. But they jumped the shark big time. They allowed people to literally buy rankings, as ads. But they didn't look like ads. And they didn't have to have anything to do with the search term they were ranking for.
So almost overnight (this was in the days of male sex organ enlargement ad fad) the SERPS became filled with gross spam. Then news spread that the top ranking responses to search queries in AV were BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! The poor SERPS, coupled with the spreading disgust that AV was selling top spots, topped by the word that a new search engine, called Google, didn't sell out and gave honest, and unsolicited, listings, was enough to practically overnight cause everyone to bail to google.
Google rose to greatness because they simply indexed the internet and gave unbiased responses to keyword searches. That's what people wanted.
How many years did Google wait before they ran their first "paid for" listing? Anybody care to guess? They had to wait a LONG time, because the Alta Vista fiasco was still very fresh in peoples minds.
Why were the first Google "paid" listings a markedly different color? Because Google knew that people had to understand which listings were paid for. (To avoid being "Alta-Vista'd") To this day they are a slightly different color, although they get harder to differentiate every week.
At this point, the average searcher has never heard of Alta Vista. And Google has seemingly forgotten all the lessons learned and what brought them to power in the first place. Google is rapidly approaching that same point that Alta Vista saw: Nearly all the results to most searches are paid for. Search quality, always subjective, is still good, if you like big brands, wikipedia, amazon, eBay, and blogs. Otherwise, it's--unhelpful--at best.
All that's lacking is the third component: a viable alternative.
The stage is set. I think we're in for some exciting times ahead.