I rarely use Altavista to search the web but I often use babelfish to translate, so it’s of some interest to me that they have added some new features. The list is not very impressive and as far as I can tell they didn’t do anything to improve babelfish, so their efforts were nugatory.
The new news page pales in comparison to google news, with fewer headlines and no pictures. The only additional feature they have is a link to translate the articles. Even if they did have all of google news’ features, I wouldn’t switch because they are only copying someone else. The only way I see them attracting more users is by productive innovation. Changing the logo and creating a new design (for the third or fourth time) is not productive, especially for a search engine.
I would much rather use a plain web site with useful features rather than a glitzy one with nothing but a great design. AltaVista, roughly translated, means ‘high view’ in spanish but it also describes their priorities. They’re putting more effort into the look of the site instead of improving the utility of their search engine.