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Magazines > Online > Nov/Dec 2003
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Online Magazine
Vol. 27 No. 6 — Nov/Dec 2003
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.

AlltheWeb has expanded the number of file types it indexes. Beyond the PDF, Microsoft Word, and Flash files it has been indexing, it now covers Rich Text Format, PowerPoint, Excel, PostScript, WordPerfect, and StarOffice. To limit to one of these new file types, use the filetype: command followed by the name of the file format (rtf, powerpoint, excel, postscript, wordperfect, or staroffice). These are not yet available on the advanced search form. AlltheWeb announced a major size increase, from about 2.1 billion to about 3.2 billion. At the time of the announcement, that was a bit larger than Google's published figure.

AltaVista, in keeping with all the other search engines, now has a toolbar as well. It actually has some useful features that differ from the other toolbars. It does require IE 5 or higher and Windows 95 or higher. Like others, it has site search along with AltaVista's Web, news, images, audio, and video databases. It also has AltaVista's popular translation option and dictionary, calculator, time, conversion, weather, and other popular information options. It even includes a pop-up blocker, like Google's Toolbar 2.0.

Gigablast has been rather busy—adding full Boolean searching, the indexing of PDF and other file types, and some metatags. The full Boolean is available from the main page search box and supports nesting. Operators are AND, OR, AND NOT and should be in all uppercase. Gigablast now indexes PDFs, PostScript, PowerPoint, Excel, and Microsoft Word files. The file type limit is different from other search engines, using type: followed by the appropriate file extension (pdf, ps, ppt, xls, or doc). In addition, Gigablast is introducing new metatags and indexing them, including zipcode, city, state, country, author, language, and classification.

Google has introduced a new operator, the tilde (~), for searching synonyms. It should be placed immediately before a search term, with no space. It uses some of the technology behind the Google Sets experiment to try and determine similar words, and not all are actual synonyms. It sometimes includes plural and singular forms of the synonyms. Google is also experimenting with a "Search by Location" [http://labs.google.com/location]. It includes a map of locations and highlighting of addresses, but there is no cache link, and its matches for locations may appear at odd places in the results.

Following in the footsteps of AlltheWeb, Google has added a built-in calculator function. Input numbers (or the word for a number) as a mathematical equation, unit conversion, or physical constant in the query box and send them as a search statement to get an answer. Also in response to AlltheWeb's announced 3.2 million-page database, Google boosted its number to 3.3 billion. At about the same time, it started tagging some records with "Supplemental Result" right before the cached link. This is an experimental project and such results will only display if the total number of results is below some threshold number.

Google Dance: Of course, as soon as I took the time to describe the Google Dance in detail (my September/October 2003 "On the Net" column), Google significantly changed its update cycle. In the summer of 2003, the update changed from a huge, complete update occurring once a month or so to a more incremental approach. While the new approach is still changing, results from different data centers do not vary quite as much and there is no longer just one time each month where the results are so tremendously different. On the other hand, Google seems to have a wider range between older records and newer ones, and it is no longer clear how frequently its entire database is updated.

Google News now has an advanced search page and alerts. The advanced search includes options for sorting by date, specifying the news source, a location limit, a date limit, and field searches for headline, body, and URL. The news alert service is in beta at www.google.com/newsalerts. It does not yet incorporate the advanced search form and only gives two frequency options: the default "once a day" and an "as it happens" option.

HotBot, which offers four different search engine databases, has changed the names of three of the four. It has moved to names known better by the general public. So, Inktomi is now just "HotBot," FAST is now called "Lycos," and Teoma is "Ask Jeeves." A new feature, each of the four now offers spelling suggestions, and the suggestions can change depending on which database is chosen. It is a convenient way to compare the various spelling suggestions.

Lycos now includes results from LookSmart in its Web Results section. While the AlltheWeb (FAST) database continues to make up the bulk of the Lycos underlying database, for about 50,000 popular keywords, 10 listings from LookSmart will display first. The advanced search bypasses the LookSmart results and goes directly to the FAST results after the regular "sponsored" ads. Also, Lycos has renamed "Fast Forward" to "Sidesearch." Sidesearch is a toolbar-like installation that only works in IE 5.01 or higher on computers running Windows 98 or higher. Instead of being a toolbar at the top, it shows up on the side. When you search another search engine, such as Google, it also runs a Lycos search in the sidebar.

Shopping.com has launched anew as a combination of the old Dealtime and Epinions sites. This newly relaunched shopping search engine includes the price comparison features and product metadata from Dealtime and consumer reviews from Epinions. Both of the other two sites will continue to operate separately. The Shopping.com search gives narrowing options for price, brand, and product-specific features. It also offers several sorting options such as price, rating, relevance, and store rating.

Yahoo! has relaunched its shopping search site [http://shopping.yahoo.com]. Shopping results appear on a regular Yahoo! search under a new "Products" tab. Like Shopping.com, results include product information, user reviews, and a price comparison feature. Yahoo! has fewer narrowing and sorting options, but its underlying database draws primarily upon the Yahoo! stores, a different collection of merchants than Shopping.com. Sometimes Yahoo! has more stores listed, and sometimes Shopping.com has more. Yahoo! shopping even has an alert feature to send e-mail alerts when prices change.


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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