Overture Rolls Out AltaVista Toolbar

Overture Services announced on Monday the rollout of the AltaVista Toolbar, just days after Google released the latest version of its own Internet browser toolbar.

Like Google’s, AltaVista’s toolbar gives users the chance to search the Web directly from their browsers, while also giving them added tools like a pop-up blocker. AltaVista, which was acquired by Overture in February, would like to capitalize on its international appeal, offering the capability to translate Web pages into 10 languages. Other features allow users to search on a Web site or page, or do specific searches for news, images, video or audio files. Users can also check weather, area codes, ZIP codes, time zones, and exchange rates.

The AltaVista toolbar is available only for Internet Explorer browsers, version 5.0 or above. AltaVista said it has no plans to make it available for other browsers. The toolbar comes in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.

Browser-based toolbars, which have been around for years, have gained new prominence since the market for paid search has taken off. With Yahoo! and Microsoft seeing search as a key component to their services, they are increasingly looking to take search from their destination pages and transform it into a key Internet utility like e-mail.

Yahoo!, which agreed to acquire Overture in July, already has its own toolbar, Yahoo! Companion, through which it’s been pushing search. Since its launch in November 2002, Yahoo! has aggressively nudged its users to download it. The company has also added a search feature to its instant messaging client.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is reportedly looking at how to integrate search into the new version of its Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn. The new search function is expected to combine Web search with document and database search to create an all-in-one search capability.

Last week, Google buffed up its toolbar, originally released in December 2000. It also features a gaggle of add-ons, such as a tool for filling in Web forms and an auto-blogging feature that taps into Google’s Blogger Web publishing platform.

Overture hopes AltaVista can tap into its own specialties, such as Babel Fish translation and audio-video search. Babel Fish can translate Web pages into 10 languages, including all major European languages, Japanese, Russian and Korean. AltaVista also boasts the largest multimedia collection, with over 550 million image, audio and video files.

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