Searching The World Wide Web
Wayne A. English
The Web is unique in that it is a vast resource of information, graphics, pictures, and material on just about every conceivable topic, and some not conceivable, and yet it does not have its own way of finding things. To locate anything you need to use a search engine which is privately owned and maintained. This is very unlike a library or encyclopedia which conforms to a set of rules and procedures for finding what you want.
What is a search engine anyway? Well it is a product that searches its own data base, which is just a collection of information. Search engines do not search the entire World Wide Web. Not yet anyway. Search engines have different ways of keeping their database up to date. Many send out robots, also called spiders, to visit web sites and send data back on whats there and to follow any links. In this way they accumulate information on just whats "out there," as a geek would say. So, your search goes against a database and returns what the search engines cute little electronic brains thinks is most pertinent to your search. So far so good. The problem comes when your search brings home 36 million possible sites. This is not helpful. Really, more than 100 or so possible sites is almost too many. So the trick is how do you eliminate all those millions of returns. Well, while you many not eliminate them all, you can significantly reduce the number of returns and have those returns that you get be more of what you want by using your favorite search engines advanced features.
On the Google home page, www.google.com, click on Advanced Search. Here you will find several ways to search. Including the ability to search any site. For example: if there is a story on www.cnn.com or www.msnbc.com, or any other site, that you cant find you can search those sites from Google. You can also search for an exact phrase; for a phrase containing all of the words in your search; even for products. Google also has a calculator. Enter 3+5 and click Search to see: 3 + 5 = 8. For other features such as definitions of words; file types; phone book; phone search by number, a reverse phone book; a spell checker; street maps, and lots more see: http://www.google.com/help/features.html. You can see why Google is so highly rated.
Next lets talk about Yahoo! which offers searching on the Web; Image; Video; Directory feature; Local; News; and Product categories. Also you can get a free email box here. Very nice to have for newsletters and those times when you dont want to give out your primary email address. To sign up for your free email box go to, http://billing.mail.yahoo.com/bm/MailReg?.v=8. This is Web mail and you can access it anywhere you can get on the Web, you dont have to be home. Also there are links to Finance, Music, Travel My Yahoo and Messenger which offers you free text, video, and voice communications in real time.
Alta Vista, http://www.altavista.com/, will search the Web, images, MP3/Audio, Video, for Directories and News. Also you can translate up to 150 words into other languages, shop online, assess the Yellow Pages, find people, convert length speed, temperature and more. Also Alta Vista just might have the most extensive suite of special search terms of all. For their complete list see: http://www.altavista.com/help/search/syntax. These terms are well worth your time to get to know, but in the meantime use Alta Vista Advanced Web Search page, http://www.altavista.com/web/adv.
Then there are the Meta-Search or Multi-threaded Search Engines. They will submit your search to more than one search engine and bring you back all of the results. To see one in action check out:
For more metasearch engines search for them with your favorite search engine.
When your favorite search engine wont find what you want, or something that you know is out there because you accessed it before, try another one or press control - H, Ctrl-H, and see if it is still in your History list. Dont forget its important to use various search engines if you don't find what you want. A failure to find information does not mean it is not out there. It just means the database you queried does not contain it.
If the Geek in you just cant wait for more in-depth information on these search tools see: http://infopeople.org/search/chart.html for Infopeoples Best Search Tools Chart. Or see, http://searchenginewatch.com/ it is packed with information. They even list search engines that are kid friendly like:
Finding information on a Web page is much easier if you use the built in search function by, on a Windows machine, holding down the control and F keys, Ctrl-F. This opens a box that will look for anything you type into it. On complex pages this is a real asset. Note though, this will only search the active Web page you are currently viewing.
Open any of the search engines listed here and you will find a wealth of tools waiting to go to work for you. The Web, despite its tender age of 15 or so, it was invented around 1990, has become a superb information gathering tool. For even more search engines just search on, you guessed it, search engines, in your favorite search engine.