News on Web Resources, divine/RoweCom,
By Paula Hane
war in Iraq and the health crisis spawned by the SARS
virus dominated the news over the last month or so. Information
industry news seemed a bit subdued in comparison, yet
there were still a number of important developments.
The War in Iraq
On March 31, we posted a NewsBreak about the various
Web resources for following news about the war
Irene McDermott supplied a number of offerings that
provided balanced news, transcripts, background information,
differing viewpoints, and directories. What made the
biggest impression on me was the access to online multimedia
resources. I could hear radio reports, watch live and
archived streaming video, interact with maps, and even
view satellite photos. As might be expected, my two
teenage sons took it all for granted, not comprehending
at all how far technology has come.
Showing both altruism and marketing savvy, LexisNexis
offered free information about the war, including news,
government and public responses, homeland security
and terrorism measures, economic impact, and even selected
television transcripts. Earlier this year, West introduced
a series of Homeland Security and Anti-Terrorism databases
on Westlaw to help legal professionals focus their
research in this area of U.S. law.
Various U.S. agencies continued to work with the
Department of Homeland Security on a number of information-sharing
initiatives concerning counterterrorism and intelligence
functions. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) is testing a computer system called Total Information
Awareness. This controversial data-mining tool, which
has definitely raised some privacy concerns, scans
information about passports, visas, airline ticket
purchases, hotel rooms, over-the-counter drugs, chemicals,
etc., to discern patterns of terrorist behavior.
In other news, the FBI recently selected ClearForest's
ClearTags and ClearResearch products to power the Terrorism
and Intelligence Data Information Sharing Data Mart,
its new data-management system. The ClearForest products
read, extract, and process any type of unstructured
content from multiple sources. The FBI is deploying
ClearResearch on the desktops of its 300 analysts.
This tool will enable them to quickly draw previously
unknown insights from counterterrorism intelligence
that's been gathered from disparate sources and "to
respond immediately and efficiently to field events,
based on the total information environment."
According to the announcement, the bureau plans to
connect the data mart to state and local databases,
telephone records, Pentagon databases, DEAandATF databases,
the State Department's visa database, and other agencies.
Have You Yahoo!-ed Lately?
There's been a small buzz of activity in the search
arena lately. Yahoo! launchedits new Yahoo! Search (http://search.yahoo.com) with
a cleaner, easier-to-use interface. It features a new
image search, keyword shortcuts to information (such
as news, Yellow Pages, weather, and maps), and a number
of other enhancements. It even launched a beta search
for products. With this latest change, Yahoo! has sure
come a long way from its start as a Web directory.
The home page offers tabs to focus a search to the
Web, a directory (yes, you can still browse or search
it), news, images, Yellow Pages, and maps. With the
keyword shortcuts, you can locate information such
as directions and addresses. Local businesses can be
retrieved by simply typing the ZIP code or a city and
state and the business (for example, "94089 pizza").
You can get a dictionary definition by typing "define" and
the word you'd like to look up. Adding an exclamation
point to the search term also provides a shortcut to
Yahoo!'s products and services. For example, you can
type "mail!" or "finance!" to take you to those areas.
The company also said it's accelerating its efforts
to integrate Inktomi's search technology, following
its recent acquisition. At this time, Google is still
powering Yahoo!. I've noticed, however, that I generally
get better results using Google's own news search (http://news.google.com) than
Yahoo!'s. Still, it's good to have choices.
Ask Jeeves Relaunches Ask.com
As this issue went to press, Ask Jeeves announced
the relaunch of Ask.com, noting that it's not trying
to be more like Googlein fact, quite the opposite.
According to the company, the new site has been designed
to address common search obstacles. Ask Jeeves says
it recognizes that people search in different ways
and want an engine that can meet their various needs.
Ask Jeeves'new Smart Search tools are modeled after
real user behavior. Some search examples include the
Searches for direct answers (e.g., state
Searches for comprehensive research
(e.g., locating information for a term paper)
Commerce searches (e.g., finding where
to purchase groceries online)
Like Yahoo! Search, Ask Jeeves is offering faster
ways to get to information. For example, you can now
search for pictures and news directly from the home
page. The site is also leaner after the removal of
some heavy graphics, and the company says searches
will be 50-percent faster.
Distributed Web Crawling
Meanwhile, LookSmart introduced what it's calling "breakthrough
distributed crawling technology." According to the
company, the new technology allows individuals, businesses,
and organizations to donate their computers' unused
processing power to a program that continually crawls
the Net, indexing Web sites and other documents. The
data is gathered into a daily-updated registry of Web
sites, which will be used to provide "accurate, up-to-the-minute
results for search engines, including those owned by
Junghoo Cho, assistant professor of computer science
at UCLA, said, "By sharing the task of crawling and
updating the Web among many thousands of end users,
distributed crawling may provide a solution to one
of the main problems of current Internet search technologies."
LookSmart is building its distributed crawling capability
with technology from Grub, Inc., an Oklahoma-based
developer of distributed computing software that LookSmart
acquired in January. TheGrub software can be downloaded
Once installed, it utilizes idle resources on the user's
computer to crawl Web sites, including the user's own
site. The software then sends a compressedfeed of changes
back to the central registryfor indexing after a crawl
is completed. To minimize the impact of crawling, Webmasters
can fine-tune the behavior of the client and elect
to only crawl content within their own LAN.
In the SearchDay newsletter, Chris Sherman reported
that in his tests, Grub didn't interfere with the other
applications he was running. He also said that watching
a crawler in action is fascinating. And since Grub
allows users to run a "local" crawl of a site every
night, he said, "This is a great way to ensure that
all of the content on your site gets crawled."
FluentMedia Logs Steady Content Growth
FluentMedia, a content-licensing agency ofTribune
Co., has broadened its supply of international news
and commentary with the recent additions of the Financial
Times, BBC Monitoring, and Primedia Business Magazines & Media
to its list of information providers.
These additions mark a steady and continuous move
by the Tribune Agency into major contention for content
distribution in the corporate market. The company recently
announced that it has been selected by Northern Trust
Corp. to supply daily feeds of market-related news
to the bank's intranet and extranet sites. FluentMedia
will provide custom filters to deliver coverage of
subjects that are important to the bank and its individual,
corporate, and institutional clients. FluentMedia software
also lets Web site managers review and select content
as well as add their own summaries and prioritize articles.
FluentMedia was featured in two articles in the April
issue of EContent. David Scott, formerly of
NewsEdge and now a consultant, wrote, "Excellent U.S.
newspaper content, good topic filters, and easy-to-use
editorial tools make the FluentMedia service worth
EBSCO has confirmed that on April 7, a U.S. Bankruptcy
Court approved the sale of RoweCom's U.S. assets to
EBSCO. The sale includes the U.S. operations of RoweCom,
Inc., as well as Dawson, Inc., Dawson Information Quest,
Inc., The Faxon Co., Inc., Turner Subscription Agency,
Inc., McGregor Subscription Service, Inc., and Corporate
Subscription Services, Inc.
The sale is contingent on the verification of publisher
support representing "at least 50 percent of the aggregate
monetary amount prepaid to RoweCom by customers," which
was not subsequently forwarded to publishers, and on
EBSCO's successful closure of its RoweCom Europeacquisition,
which is contingent on the receipt of French regulatory
approval. According to EBSCO in mid-April, "both items
are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks."
EBSCO has also finalized its purchase of RoweCom
Australia. The orders of RoweCom Australia customers
who prepaid RoweCom, but whose payments were not forwarded
to publishers, will be graced by publishers. This is
similar to what's happening in the U.S. These customers
will be transferring their bankruptcy claim to participating
publishers in exchange for 2003 issues.
And what about the fate of RoweCom's parent, divine,
Inc., which itself declared bankruptcy in late February?
As this issue went to press, a number of potential
buyersfor all or parts of divinewere still
hovering around the beleaguered company. The Chicago
Tribune reported that Oak Investment Partners,
which had provided equity funding to divine, was preparing
a joint bid with San Francisco's Golden Gate Capital.
An auction was scheduled to be held by the bankruptcy
court on April 17. By the time you read this, divine's
fate should be known.
divine's British subsidiary, Divine Solutions (UK),
Ltd., went into bankruptcy administration in late February
following the collapse of its parent. In March, the
administrator appointed by the court, Begbies Traynor,
announced that it had found a buyer and managed to
save 39 of 66 jobs. Ken Kinsella, the president of
divine's international business, apparently formed
a new company called Silverprime, Ltd. and purchased
Divine Solutions for an undisclosed sum. (Industry
observers wondered how customers will feel about having
the same hands on the tiller as before.) My phone calls
to Kinsella were not returned.
Meanwhile, despite the pending legal actions (which
include a federal grand jury investigation and a number
of lawsuits), potential liabilities, and corporate
failings, divine founder and CEO Andrew "Flip" Filipowski
has reportedly purchased a minor-league baseball team.
According to an article in the Charlotte Business
Journal, the money-losing Winston-Salem Warthogs
have been bought by Filipowski and entrepreneur Billy
Prim. This certainly fits with Filipowski's track record
of picking up companies at bargain prices.
For the latest industry news, check http://www.infotoday.com every
Monday morning. An easier option is to sign up for
our free weekly e-mail newsletter, NewsLink, which
provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.
Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief
and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.