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AltaVista is to be sold by investment house CMGI for $140m in paper and cash to paid-for search outfit Overture Services.

Overture said it plans to use AltaVista as a way to test new search services and marketing products for its advertisers before selling them on to its global distribution network.

The deal - made up of $80m in stock and $60m in cash - still needs to be finalised, but is expected to happen somewhen in April.

AltaVista used to be an Internet giant - a search engine that stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Testament to that comes from CMGI's decision to pay Compaq $2.3bn for an 83 per cent stake in the search engine back in 1999.

But AltaVista's slide from the top slot was meteoric - and legendary. In a bid to cash in on the online revolution it took its eye off its core business (search) and tried its hand at other stuff, most notably a disastrous attempt to get into the ISP game. And portals.

Even as late as last year the company was pushing the idea that it could return to the good old and days and concentrate on being a top-notch search outfit.

In November 2002 AltaVista chief scientist, Jan Pederson said: "AltaVista has repositioned itself as an internet search company. There was a period when AltaVista was in the position Google is now. Then there was a drift in the company, a lack of focus - the portal strategy." ®

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