AltaVista has launched a new search engine, called Raging Search, designed to offer a faster and more streamlined way to search for Web pages.

Raging Search dispenses with features like directories, discussion groups and shopping information, and answers searches by providing only a list of the most relevant Web sites, said Rod Schrock, AltaVista's CEO and president.

AltaVista claims the new site is 20 per cent faster than its main AltaVista search portal, partly because Raging Search hosts no banner advertisements which can take time to download.

AltaVista also announced that it has revamped the search index behind its search engine, aiming to eliminate links to dead and duplicate pages and return more relevant results to users.

The announcements come as AltaVista prepares for its initial public offering, which the company delayed while it waited for the high-tech stock market to rally. Schrock said: "We're waiting for the market to reflect confidence back in the Internet economy. That's our only precondition to going public."

The main AltaVista search engine, competes primarily against Yahoo and Lycos, Schrock said. Raging Search aims at competitors like Google, he added.

Google offers a simplified search tool, much like Raging Search, and has been gathering interest among more experienced Web surfers.

AltaVista claims a more international audience than its rivals. 55 per cent of visitors to AltaVista's site today live outside North America, compared with about 15 per cent each for Lycos and Excite, and about 30 per cent for Yahoo, Schrock said.

Raging Search aims to continue that international theme. The site can be customized so users can search the Web in up to 25 languages, including double-byte languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, Schrock said.