Search engines played a vital role in providing relevant information to web users during the US terrorist crisis, with traffic up to 10 times heavier than usual.
AltaVista was the star among the major services while Google was a great disappointment, according to a report by market watcher Search Engine Watch (SEW).
The report said that AltaVista did well because it has a partnership with Moreover, and integrates the news crawler's headlines into its regular listings.
A search for 'world trade center' on AltaVista brought up news stories about the tragedy less than two hours after the event. Top related searches also included 'pentagon', 'bin laden', and 'america under attack', according to SEW.
Google, which also integrates news headlines into its search results, indicated no results for a search on 'world trade center' two hours after the attack.
Danny Sullivan, author of The Search Engine Report, believes that AltaVista did extremely well straight away because of its integrated news feed. "After that, I'd probably give AltaVista some good points for getting some relevant links up about four hours afterwards," he said.
Sullivan added that Yahoo deserved credit for fairly quickly updating its news sections and making news promotions on its home page.
Many search services began making significant alterations about four hours after the attacks, said the report.
MSN altered its front page, more substantially than Lycos where coverage was harder to spot, but neither changes were to the extent of those at Yahoo and AltaVista.
The research also found that Ask Jeeves, which should have been right on top of the search engine pile, was no better four hours after the attack. It was six hours before the service added a new link that said: 'Get the latest news on America under siege.'
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