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AltaVista has launched its Australian Web search site, but will run its local operation entirely on servers housed in the UK for the first month of operation.

According to international business development director Martin Keogh, networking connectivity problems between the UK and Australia caused the search engine company to postpone its foray onto local shores.

"Connectivity with UK was quite an issue," he said. "In some respects we're a little late."

Keogh said the search site would be hosted in the company's UK data centre for at least one month after launching. All data compiling and aggregation for Australia-specific search queries would initially be routed directly to the UK centre, he said.

After one month, the company would open a mostly Compaq-driven "remote front end" server farm in Australia valued at "hundreds of millions of dollars", Keogh said.

The Australian arm of AltaVista will be a simplified version of the company's US and European operations.

Keogh said the local AltaVista site would consist of an "absolutely pure search site", rather than a multifunctional portal as in the US and Europe.

"The big app for AltaVista is 'Search'. We're not trying to replicate the look of the US site [in Australia]," he said.

The Australian AltaVista site will comprise an index of some eight million Australia-relevant Web sites - almost one site for every two Australians. Aust-ralian Web surfers will also be able to search AltaVista's global catalogue of 400 million sites, Keogh said.

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