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VOLUME 26 NUMBER 1 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2002 
Internet Search Engine Update
by Greg R. Notess
Reference Librarian, Montana State University

AllTheWeb has made several significant changes, adding a news database to its Web, image, multimedia, and FTP databases; dynamic clustering; and dynamic query modification. The searchable news database covers more than 3,000 Web news sources. Up to two headlines will be displayed with a typical AllTheWeb search, and the results will note the day and time the news page was last crawled. Pages will only remain in the index for five days, but the news crawl is continuous and fully updates all pages every two hours. Dynamic clustering of Fast Topics appear at the top of the results and divides the top 200 hits into folders using the Open Directory vocabulary or automatically generated terms if no Open Directory term seems to match. Dynamic query modification will automatically detect phrases and use antiphrasing to remove phrases like "where can i find information on." The new features can be turned on or off using the newly-improved customization capabilities. On the advanced search page, you can now limit by page size.

AltaVista has several undocumented proximity and order operators available on its advanced search. To specify proximity other than ten, use the "WITHIN" operator followed by a space and the number. Alternatively, the symbol for 'WITHIN' is a double tilde: ~~. So, to search for "ludwig" within five words of "amadeus," use ludwig within 5 amadeus or ludwig ~~ 5 amadeus. To specify the order of terms without any specific proximity, the less than symbol (<) is used for a BEFORE operation. It can be combined with the NEAR operator to specify an ordered proximity of ten by using the two symbols of <~, but it cannot be combined with the WITHIN operator. Note that these only work on the advanced search page.

CompletePlanet, BrightPlanet's directory of Invisible Web databases and search engines, announced that it now has nearly 90,000 entries in its listings, which is about triple what it used to have. These resources are organized by subject using more than 7,000 terms.

Excite is undergoing a major transition. The bankruptcy of parent company Excite@Home has led to a possible purchase of the Excite domain name, trademarks, and traffic by metasearch engine InfoSpace. If this purchase goes through, traffic to excite.com would go to InfoSpace. Excite's News Tracker and its Search Voyeur have already been shut down. However, the company retains the underlying search engine technology, so the search engine may live on under a new guise. It will at least continue to be featured at the www.home.net portal for @Home broadband users.

Google has been busy in recent months introducing several new features. Most significantly, Google has again expanded what it indexes. The first of the search engines to move beyond Web pages, Google added full-text indexing of PDF files in January 2001. Now, it has added full-text indexing of many other file types, including Postscript, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Works, Write, Mac Write, Rich Text Format, WordPro, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and more. Results in these formats are identified before the title in the first line of the display with a note, such as [PDF] or [PS], to denote the different file format. On some, a second line of the display lists a more detailed file format description along with a link to Google's text or HTML version of the file. 

With the new file types, Google added a special file type limit to the advanced search. Other changes include a new tabbed interface, with Google's databases (Web, Images, Groups, and Directory) available as separate tabs on the main search page and on subsequent pages as well. Image search is out of beta and has a new advanced search with limits for image file type, color, and host. A new "Language Tools" search option, next to the advanced search link, gives choices on interface language, language limits, and links to regional versions of Google. Arabic and Turkish language limits are now available.

Lycos has launched a major redesign of its home page and changes can be seen on the results page and throughout the site. The search changes include moving the Open Directory category matches to the bottom and raising the prominence of the Fast Search results. Lycos continues to use Overture paid positioning results, now under the heading of "Products and Services" or "Featured Listings." The advanced search remains the same and only searches the Fast database with no Overture results.

Yahoo! has changed the way that its results are displayed, reducing the number of category matches displayed to just a few with links to the other category matches. This ensures that entry matches will be displayed on the first page as well. In addition, the category labels have been shortened and no longer necessarily represent the full taxonomic hierarchy, at least in the search results display. Choosing the category will usually bring up the full hierarchy at the top of that page. Yahoo! has also added paid positioning results from Overture (formerly GoTo) under the heading of Sponsor Matches.


Greg NotessGreg R. Notess (greg@notess.com; www.notess.com) is a reference librarian at Montana State University and founder of SearchEngineShowdown.com

Comments? Email the editor at marydee@infotoday.com.


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