Internet Search Engine Update
by Greg R. Notess
Reference Librarian, Montana State University
Search Engine Update
goes up on the Web
soon as it is written, approximately one month before
the print issue mails to subscribers.
Google's still-in-beta product and shopping search
engine, was featured prominently throughout the Christmas
shopping season. Google advertised Froogle directly
on the main Google page. At the top of some search
results, Google listed up to three "Product Search" results
that came from the Froogle database. However, these
results did not always show up, even for the same search
words that worked before, indicating that Google is
continuing to experiment with this addition.
Gigablast added spelling suggestions for correct
or alternate spellings of unusual query terms. These
suggestions are displayed after a "Did you mean. .
." message at the top of a results page. Sometime in
the next year, Gigablast also plans to have hardware
that can handle a 5-billion-document database. It has
recently updated its database to over 250 million records.
In addition, Gigablast modified its logo and added
a new slogan of "Information Acceleration." It now
also has the ability to default to an AND search, like
all the major search engines, but it is not intuitive
to implement. After a search is run, users would have
to add &rat=1 to the end of the URL. Impractical
for most, this should make it easy to add the default
AND as a preference or advanced search choice at some
time in the future.
Google has started doing some automatic stemming
of certain search terms. Some words in a query may
have their grammatical variants (including singular
or plural forms) searched along with the version entered
in the query. This seems to occur only for English-language
words but not for all terms. The stemming does not
seem to occur on single word searches, on phrase searches,
or on terms with a + in front of them.
Google's Deskbar is now available. Rather
than a browser add-on, the deskbar appears in the Windows
taskbar and functions independently of the browser.
It can be used for many Google functions, including
the calculator, definitions, Web searches, news, groups,
and Froogle. It only works for those with Windows 98
or higher and requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher.
It displays the results in a mini-viewer instead of
a full browser Window.
Google Print [http://print.google.com/print/faq.html] is now in beta. This project includes records and extracts
from published books in Google's Web database. While
not including the full text, as does Amazon's "Search
Inside the Book" program [Editor's note: For a thorough
explanation of the Amazon program, see Michael Banks'
article beginning on page 30], it does make some
extracts of content within books searchable. The records
link to various online book stores. These records are
preceded by a [BOOK - BETA] tag. A separate initiative
is the Open WorldCat Project, where Google is now including
a small subset of OCLC's WorldCat database of library
records and holdings. These show up as records at www.worldcatlibraries.org
and have titles that start with "Find in a Library." Clicking
on one prompts users to enter a ZIP code; nearby libraries
are then listed along with contact information and
maps. However, these records are brief and tend not
to rise to the top of Google results at this point.
These two initiatives are currently separate from each
other. Since both are experimental, they may change
or stop appearing at any time.
Google Shortcuts [www.google.com/help/features.html]
has expanded with direct access to Web numeric databases.
Shortcuts are available for U.S. Patent Numbers, UPS
Tracking Numbers, FedEx Tracking Numbers, USPS Tracking
Numbers, FCC Equipment Identification Numbers, FAA
Airplane Registration Numbers, UPC Codes, Telephone
Area Codes, and Automobile Vehicle ID (VIN) Numbers.
For a few, a prefix like patent or fcc is required,
while others just need the exact number. Airport weather
information is available by entering the airport three-letter
code followed by the word airport. Flight status is
available by entering the name of the airline followed
by the flight number. The results appear as links just
above regular search results, very similar to the position
AltaVista uses for its shortcuts.
LookSmart has relaunched FindArticles, expanding
coverage to 700 full-text publications (from Gale),
which is several hundred more periodicals than its
previous version. Along with the expansion, the FindArticles
database is now accessible as a tab directly from the
LookSmart site as well as separately on FindArticles.com.
The new LookSmart and FindArticles interfaces have
three tabs for searchingthe LookSmart Directory,
the Web (which comes from the LookSmart-owned Wisenut),
and Articles. The default operator is now AND.
MSN Search is exploring launching a news search
engine. It has already launched beta versions in the
U.K., France, Spain, and Italy. Powered by the 4,000+
sources from Moreover, the U.K. version is available
at http://uk.newsbot.msn.com. Information on the project
is at http://uk.newsbot.msn.com/
About.aspx. Note that you must use the "Search news" box in the middle of the
left margin rather than the regular MSN Search box at the top right. It searches
many news sites from outside the U.K. (including U.S. sources) and seems to
go back about 1 month.
Northern Light is set to return, but not as
a free Web search engine. It will be launching the
Business Research Library available by subscription,
first to businesses in January and then to individuals
in March. While Web searching of millions pages of
Web content editorially selected for business research
will be a part of the product, it will not be generally
available to the nonpaying public.
R. Notess (firstname.lastname@example.org;
is a reference librarian at Montana State University and
founder of SearchEngineShowdown.com.
Comments? Email the editor at email@example.com.