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Magazines > Online > March/April 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 2 — March/April 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.

Froogle, 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 searching—the 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.

 


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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