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Magazines > Online > July/August 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 4 — July/August 2004
DEPARTMENTS
Internet Search Engine Update
by Greg R. Notess
Reference Librarian, Montana State University

Internet Search Engine Update goes up on the Web at http://www.onlinemag.net as soon as it is written, approximately one month before the print issue mails to subscribers.

As expected, now that Yahoo! has launched its own Yahoo! Search database, this has meant the death of unique databases at older search engines, including AltaVista and AlltheWeb.

AlltheWeb and the other FAST Web search engines no longer have their own database. Unfortunately, not only is the database gone, so are many of the unique AlltheWeb search features. The current database being used at the AlltheWeb site appears to be a smaller version of the Yahoo! Search database. The other databases (images, audio, video, and news) remain, except for the FTP database, which is also gone. Lost search features include drop-down field searches options for "in the URL," "in the host name," and "in the link to URL." Boolean operators must now be in uppercase (NOT replaces andnot). Fourteen language limits have disappeared: Afrikaans, Basque, Byelorussian, Faeroese, Frisian, Galician, Indonesian, Latin, Malay, Serbian, Swahili, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, and Welsh (although Farsi is now available). Searchers also no longer have access to the IP range limit, the page size limit, the media type inclusions, and the indexing of text within Flash files and its corresponding limit. So with the loss of the unique Web database, are there reasons to still consider using AlltheWeb? At this point, the only obvious use is for the audio and video databases, which are also available at AltaVista but not at Yahoo! However, a Yahoo! representative says that it recognizes the unique audience at AlltheWeb and may provide special features there in the future.

AltaVista has also died, at least as a unique search engine database. The AltaVista Web database has been replaced with the same version of the Yahoo! Search database as AlltheWeb. Like at AlltheWeb, many advanced search features have been lost. Truncation and wild cards are gone, which unfortunately means that truncation is no longer available at any major search engine. The same is true of the NEAR operator and other proximity searching beyond phrase searching. Case-sensitive searching is gone. Neither case-sensitive searching nor the NEAR operator is supported any longer at any other search engine. AltaVista also lost the ability to use certain field searches: anchor, applet, image, text, and like. The region limit has vanished. Since the Web database, at this point, seems to only be a smaller version of Yahoo!'s, there is little reason to continue to use AltaVista beyond the Video and MP3/Audio databases that are not yet available at Yahoo! Search. As with AlltheWeb, Yahoo! says that it recognizes the unique audience at AltaVista and may provide special features there in the future.

Ask Jeeves introduced a new shortcut for celebrity searches. Recognizing the large percentage of searches related to celebrities, Ask will now display some basic information about many celebrities and famous historic personages at the top of the search results. This shortcut contains a brief biography extract with a link to a more extended version from Who2.com. It also contains links to Pictures, News, Products, Official Web Site, Filmography, and Discography.

Gigablast finally made the switch to a default AND operation, joining the same practice of all the major search engines. Entering more than one word now will automatically search for all the query terms by default. When no results are found, as well as at the end of the list of AND matches, Gigablast will give a link to "Show relevant partial matches," which links to an OR search.

Google is finally starting the process of its much-anticipated initial public stock offering. However, for the searcher, the significant changes have to do with Google's new look and new search features. The new appearance has had the negative impact of the removal of the directory tab (along with the tab design in general) and its replacement with Froogle, Google's shopping search. Directory category headings are no longer suggested at the top of the results lists, and individual results no longer include directory categories. Other cosmetic changes include the removal of the color background on the side ads and putting the search query, definition, and count on the right side of the header bar. One new and potentially very useful search syntax from Google is the number range search. It covers numbers with and without commas and includes decimal numbers. To use this number range search, just put the smaller number, two periods, and a larger number either by themselves or with other query words. Adding a dollar sign to the first number invokes the price range search which does actually search for occurrences of the dollar sign as in good books $5..11. However, it does not yet recognize the pound (£), Yen (¥), or Euro ( euro ) characters.

HotBot dropped one of its four databases. Since the Lycos database is no longer from AlltheWeb and FAST Web Search, it became the same as the one labeled HotBot, which is another version of the Yahoo! database. So now HotBot has three database to choose between: HotBot (Yahoo!), Google, and Ask Jeeves (Teoma).

Lycos had to find a new search engine database with the demise of the FAST Web Search (AlltheWeb) database. Despite its new emphasis on social networking, the search box remains. Lycos is now shows an Inktomi logo and uses basically the same database from Yahoo! as is seen at AltaVista and AlltheWeb. For certain popular queries, Lycos will give the first 10 or so results from the LookSmart directory, many of which are paid (ad) listings.

Yahoo! dropped another Google database. After switching earlier this year to its own Web database, it now is using its own image database as well. It is based on the image database used at AlltheWeb and AltaVista, although there are some variations in the results retrieved from each one.


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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