Web Search Engines

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Get Just What You Need!


Our Guest...AltaVista


Advantages: Fast; indexes every word on millions of pages and in Usenet newsgroups; revising searches is simple.
Disadvantages: Can be difficult to narrow searches; category directory is very small.

Was introduced to the general public in mid-December 1995 by Digital Equipment Corporation. Ironically, its success was an accident--the AltaVista project was intended as a short-term demonstration of Digital Equipment's Alpha hardware.

Our Guest...HotBot

Advantages: Unique search options let you restrict searches in a variety of ways; has a very large indexed database of web documents.
Disadvantages: Limited Boolean search features; large number of duplicate records in database.

Originally an academic experiment, HotBot grew out of Inktomi's parallel-processing project at the University of California at Berkeley.

Our Guest...Infoseek

Infoseek Guide

Advantages: Searches for Web pages, Usenet groups, Web FAQs, e-mail address, and more.
Disadvantages: Uses unusual search expressions; only finds keywords. InfoSeek does not support Boolean operators or wildcard characters. The search engine for InfoSeek is case-sensitive.

Was introduced in February 1995 by InfoSeek Corporation and was the first search system on the Web to charge a fee for searching.

Our Guest...
Open Text Index

Open Text Index

Advantages: Full set of Boolean search tools; indexes every word on millions of pages; has an easy to use interface. The power behind the Open Text is the index itself.
Disadvantages: Limited to five phrases per search; database is not as extensive as others.

Developed by Open Text Corporation of Waterloo, Ontario in partnership with UUNET Canada, Open Text is a full-text index of over one million Web sites as well as FTP sites and gopher servers.

Our Guest...Excite


Advantages: Conceptual searching finds ideas related to your original terms; database is large; simple English search terms.
Disadvantages: Difficult to narrow searches; interface is unsophisticated and frustrating.

Originally called Architext, Excite was developed by a bunch of Stanford University grads in late 1993.

Our Guest...Lycos


Advantages: Unique search options help you speed searches and work around misspellings; easy to use but still very powerful; database is large. With the Lycos catalog growing by over 300,000 pages per week, it claims it will soon catalog 99 percent of the WWW.
Disadvantages: Finds only keywords; Boolean searches restricted to AND and OR.

As indicated by its Latin name for WolfSpider (Lycosidae), Lycos is a spider-oriented search engine. It was developed by the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and is now owned by Lycos, Inc., a joint venture of CMG@Ventures and Carnegie Mellon University.

Our Guest...WebCrawler


Advantages: Performs reverse searches to find who's linking to your site; interface is simple; indicate how many responses are to be returned.
Disadvantages: Searches only by keywords; not as expansive as AltaVista or Open Text.

1996 was a huge year for Excite when they brought an experienced senior-level management from an impressive list of established companies; and they acquired two of their search and navigation competitors, Magellan and ...WebCrawler.

Our Guest...Yahoo


Advantages: Well-organized categories make it easy to drill down to useful information.
Disadvantages: Finds only keywords; doesn't prioritise results, this means you have to filter through many results.

This de facto standard for Internet search services really isn't one at all. Rather, Yahoo is primarily a directory--essentially a list of Web sites submitted by human beings and sorted into categories.

Our Guest...Dogpile


Advantages: Multi-engine semi-parallel search interface. Searches logically through several search engines until 10 matches are found. Allows use of boolean and proximity operators.
Disadvantages: Processes searches sequentially (increasing time taken).


Our Guest...MetaFind Search Engine

MetaFind Search Engine

Advantages: Sends your query in parallel to many search engines. The results are displayed in a homogeneous format
Disadvantages:Increasing time taken.


Our Guest...
Ez-Find at The River

Ez-Find at The River

Advantages: Uses 9 different search engines; offers easy operation; good range of search options can be selected for all engines.
Disadvantages: Processes searches sequentially (increasing time taken).


Our Guest...SavvySearch


Advantages: Sends your query in parallel to many search engines. The results are displayed in a homogeneous format and in any of several languages.
Disadvantages: Processes searches sequentially (increasing time taken).


Boolean Basics: Learn the Search-Engine Language

Despite the rapid proliferation and development of Web search systems over the past months, little attention has been devoted to the advanced features professional searchers and librarians have become accustomed to in other online information resources.

Web novices and information professionals alike often overlook or miss detailed information such as:

  • what a particular Web search system is searching
  • how the data has been indexed
  • how the search engine retrieves data
  • what advanced techniques (proximity operators, nested queries, search set manipulation and combination, duplicate detection, etc.) are available

Not all Web search systems, their search engines, and the databases they search are created equal. Only a handful really cover the Web exhaustively in terms of URLs covered and depth of indexing. Only a few provide the type of advanced searching features that are standard for librarians.

Information professionals need to become familiar with the advanced features of these major Internet search services.

Get Just What You Need

AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR. They're simple words, but use them correctly and you'll be looking at a dozen relevant sites instead of thousands of unrelated ones.

The terms--part of a century-old system called Boolean logic--act as extremely effective filters for finding just the information you need on the Web. Most of today's search engines support some form of Boolean query. Check the help section of your favorite search engine to find out whether it allows Boolean searches.

The AND operator makes sure all the terms you request appear on the selected sites. If you type Java AND JavaSoft your search will return pages about the Web's programming language, not coffee.
Use OR to return pages that contain either of two terms.For example, Microsoft OR Netscape will find pages that mention either or both companies.
Use NOT to ensure that certain words won't appear in your search selections. Modems NOT internal will narrow your search to external modems.
This term finds words located within a certain number of characters of each other. Not every service uses NEAR in the same way, and some don't offer it at all. For example, AltaVista uses it to find words within ten characters of each other, while WebCrawler lets you specify the number of characters.
Organize your searches even further by using parentheses. NOT Intel AND Cyrix will return pages with Cyrix in them; NOT (Intel AND Cyrix) will avoid pages with both names.

For any search topic you should pay close attention to any Web engine documentation to clarify just how and what it searches.

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