Paul A. Flaherty, 42; Engineer Helped Create AltaVista Search Engine

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Paul A. Flaherty, 42, a computer engineer who helped create the pioneering AltaVista online search engine, died March 16 of a heart attack at his home in the San Francisco Peninsula city of Belmont, members of his family said Friday.

Flaherty came up with the idea of indexing Web pages, a concept that made AltaVista one of the most popular Internet search tools in the mid-1990s.

He was a research engineer at Digital Equipment Corp. in Palo Alto when he teamed up with two other staff researchers in 1995 to develop AltaVista’s technology.

The website was made public in December of that year and within weeks was processing several million searches a day. It was spun off from Digital Equipment as a private company in 1999.

Flaherty was director of technical strategy at AltaVista until leaving in 2000 to work in management consulting. Before his death, he was vice president for product development at TalkPlus, a telecommunications software company in Menlo Park.


Born in Milwaukee and raised in Minnesota, Flaherty earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He received a master’s degree and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford.