been asked several times which Internet search engine I recommend.
with, it has to be said that the term search engine
is often too loosely used. It might seem pedantic, but
sometimes it can be really quite important for the results
you get back. There is in fact a crucial difference
between a search engine and a directory.
directory is list of sites organised by subject. The key point is that
this categorisation is done by humans, who respond to suggestions on what
sites to include. A bit like library cataloguers with a trolley full of
famous of Internet directories is
Yahoo!, which has been
providing its Internet navigational guide since April 1994. Yahoo!
today employs over 2000 people to compile its entries.
important feature of directories is the fact that, as well as being able
to initiate a computer search, you can browse them yourself, by category
this wasn’t the case when it began, these days a query initiated at
Yahoo! is also simultaneously served by a true search engine. (Until
recently it relied on Inktomi, but since July 2000 it has changed
to Google, more of which anon.)
search engine is a robot (i.e. a computer program) that travels around
the Internet, capturing every word on every page it visits. This
completely automated travelling around (or “spidering”, as it is often
called), takes place continuously, with every Web page (billions of them
now) at present being revisited by each such engine once every two months
on the average.
actually three separate parts to a search engine. First there’s the
spider, which goes on its merry way following links. Then there’s the
cataloguing robot which actually builds the index. Finally there’s the
searching software, which sifts through the millions of references in the
index in response to your query.
phrase “capturing every word on every page”, above. Herein lies the power
of true search engines. For, while a magazine like Bikwil, say, may
get classified by a Yahoo! editor into this and/or that category,
this is only done for the magazine as a whole. The search engine, on the
other hand, will index deep down in the magazine, making entries, perhaps,
for Bet Briggs, Miles Davis, Harlish Goop, Land ‘o’ Useless Facts, Edith
Sitwell, among others (and they’re just from our first issue).
the face of it, why not just use Yahoo!? After all, it has
human-classified and robot-indexed entries.
question. Indeed it was Yahoo! that I myself used almost
exclusively for about two years, but gradually I became aware of and tried
out other indexes, such as Alta Vista,
longest with HotBot. Then I discovered meta-search engines.
To do a
meta-search just means to search from a higher level. In practice this
involves your search engine looking at several indexes before returning
the results. Some of the better known meta-search engines include
CNet Search (now amalgamated with
might expect, your chances of finding what you want are both increased and
speeded up if you use a meta-searcher
said, then, which is the best of the meta-search engines? In my opinion,
it’s got to be CNet Search. No doubt about it.
Because it has the ability to send your query to 800 engines. The complete
list can be dug out at the CNet Search site, but these are some of
the major ones likely to be used for an average query:
(now called Overture)
particularly like about CNet Search is how rapidly it integrates
all the responses it finds into one list. Just remember to click on the
“See more Web Pages” and “All sources” links.
as CNet Search is, usually I rush straight to the always impressive
Google. Elegantly simple to
look at, it has by far the finest deep indexing capability of all search
tools I know for finding that elusive reference — over 3.7 billion pages
indexed to date (the largest database of any search tool). Indeed, the
more obscure your need, the more it seems to excel — a fact that certain
other Bikwil readers are sure to applaud.
fast, fast, fast — taking less than half a second to respond with its
ranked list of results. Every time. All this, mind you, while servicing
100 million searches a day. Fantastic!
from its speed, Google has two other features that set it apart.
Firstly, it makes much use of “link popularity” to rank its findings. In
other words, the more links a Web page has to it from other well-known
pages, the more relevant Google considers it. Its other valuable
feature is that for each result returned it shows an extract from the page
found, and even highlights your search words.
Google or CNet Search, then. You’ll not be disappointed.