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New Tools for Searching the Web


By Ben Bongalon <bongalon@hotmail.com>

The problem with the Internet is that there's so much information available. With nearly a billion pages on the Web already and growing by a million pages each day, finding the stuff you are looking for can be a challenge. So what can you do to overcome the information glut?

First, try your favorite portal. If you're like me and use Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), Altavista (http://www.altavista.com), InfoSeek (http://www.infoseek.com), Lycos (http://www.lycos.com), etc. as your home base, you might as well start with their search engine.

Many times they will do a decent job of finding the information you need. But what if you get back hundreds of search results that are mostly irrelevant? Fortunately, a new breed of search engines can help you find that needle in the digital haystack.

These next-generation search tools work differently from traditional engines. Instead of ranking Web pages based on how many times a keyword appears in a document (which often leads to bad results), these new tools analyze the Web's rich hyperlink structure, or who points to what, to select the relevant pages.

Sites that are frequently visited or linked to by other Web sites are considered to be the most relevant. It turns out, as Web gurus have recently discovered, that using this approach leads to better search results.

Google (http://www.google.com) is a prime example of this new technology. Instead of long and massive lists, it returns just enough links for you to do your search efficiently. Google's Web design is clean and simple--in fact, no annoying ads (yet!), which makes it one of my favorite search engines. It even has an "I feel lucky" button which directly takes you to the page it thinks you're looking for so you get a mind reader too for free. :-)

DirectHit (http://www.directhit.com) is another tool that uses link information for better searches. This search engine ranks documents based on popularity. Sites that are frequently visited by other surfers appear higher on its results list. HotBot and MSN are two well-known sites that use DirectHit as their search engine. Recently, AT&T has announced it will use DirectHit for its WorldNet portal.

Not to be left behind, IBM is working on a rival engine called Clever. It plans to license its technology to Internet search companies and large corporations in the next several months. This should be an interesting development, so watch this column for updates.

There you have it-- more search tools to put knowledge and information at your fingertips. It pays to learn each tool's strong and weak points and when to use one over the other, so give them a try and judge them for yourself.

Happy fishing!

Sources:

  • "Hypersearching the Web", Scientific American, 7/99
  • Yahoo! Tech News, 9/20/99
  • Forbes Global (www.global.forbes.com)

 


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