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Magazines > Online > Nov/Dec 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 6 — Nov/Dec 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.

Ask Jeeves joins the push for local search. Ask has announced a partnership with Citysearch, in which Ask Jeeves licenses Citysearch's local content and business data. This information is included in the "Smart Search" answers that show up at the top of the search results screen. Local results currently are available for maps, driving directions, weather, people search, and movies. Once the Citysearch data is integrated sometime this autumn, the local search content will be expanded to include editorial and user reviews and ratings of local businesses.

Blogs being the hip communication technology of the day, both Google and Yahoo! now have their own [www.google.com/googleblog and www.ysearchblog.com]. Fairly routine and not too informative yet, the blogs are another source for news on the search efforts of these two companies. Neither of the two was the first to have a search engine blog. Gigablast [www.gigablast.com/rants.html] has had one since 2002, although it's not been updated in months. In the past, it has included some of the most interesting search developments.

Google has been all over the news lately, but the news has all been about its initial public stock offering. This in turn has meant more than the usual silence from Google on plans for the future and new search offerings. However, it has added a few new features. Most important, after years of displaying a cached copy with no mention of the date that the page was crawled, Google has finally added this information to the cache's header. (In Google's very early days, it used to include both the date when Google crawled the page and the reported date stamp on the page at that time.) In addition, Google now offers a text-only version of the page. Again, this link is in the header of the cached page within the following statement: "This cached page may reference images which are no longer available. Click here for the cached text only." The text-only cache version uses the alternate text information from the HTML images tags of a page in place of the images and may also identify Web bugs placed on pages to track usage statistics. For Google Toolbar users, a new feature gives the option to add keyword browsing to the Internet Explorer address bar. Local search has been enhanced with a new, cleaner interface, zooming and panning for maps, more links, and improved relevance technology.

Lycos has introduced two new focused search engines: People Search and Discussion Search. The People Search [http://peoplesearch.lycos.com] combs U.S. white pages and also links to a few commercial people search companies such as Eliyon for business professional profiles and Intelius for background checks and public records searches. The Discussion Search [http://discussion.lycos.com] offers one of the best options for targeted searching of discussion forums and bulletin boards. It has limits for Yahoo! Groups, MSN Groups, and dot-orgs. While it retrieves some PDF files and plain Web pages, most of the discussion group pages rise to the top. One major discussion area not included is the Usenet news discussion groups, which remain searchable only at Google Groups.

MSN Search's technology preview of its new search engine is now gone, replaced with a thank-you message to those who tried it and sent feedback. However, it did launch a U.S. version of its MSNBC Newsbot news search engine [http://newsbot.msnbc.msn.com]. Previously available for the U.K. and a few other countries, this broader launch is also linked from the main MSNBC page. It defaults to an AND search. It also tries to keep track of which stories are viewed and what searches are run. It uses this information to try and personalize its headline selections, but users can also delete their viewing history. It is still in beta and has several bugs, but it covers over 4,800 sources.

Yahoo! has been busy on several fronts. It launched the new design for its results page. It has joined Google in including records from the Open WorldCat project [www.worldcatlibraries.org]. These results will occasionally appear with a heading like "Find in a Library:" followed by the book title. Click on one, and the resulting page prompts a user to enter a ZIP code to find nearby libraries that hold the book. The Yahoo! results often include a "See which libraries own this" note, which makes it more obvious than Google's results listing. But few users are likely to find these records in either database, and a direct search of the local library catalog will be far more comprehensive.

The Yahoo! Toolbar's Anti-Spy has been upgraded and is out of beta. It now automatically scans for both spyware and adware by default. It also added an optional scan for tracking cookies.

In keeping with the local search trend, Yahoo! has expanded its local search offerings with a test release of Yahoo! Local Search [http://local.yahoo.com]. Like most other local search offerings, Yahoo! offers only U.S. local listings. The search form has two boxes—one for the search term and the other for the address, city, state, and/or ZIP code. The results include phone numbers, address, extract, distance, map, and even some reviews. Searchers can save several locations for frequent searches.


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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