[Internet Search Engine Update]

ONLINE, July 2001
Copyright © 2001 Information Today, Inc.

AltaVista continues to make changes to its site. The latest include moving back to a default OR operator between multiple terms for its basic search (but this may change yet again). Power search, now under the name of Search Assistant, shows as a more prominent link from the basic and advanced search pages. Full Boolean searching and the NEAR operator are available from the basic search page, as long as the operators are in upper case. Search results are no longer numbered, although that capability may come back as an option. The advanced search screen has added pre-set date limits and has a new URL. At Web Search University, AltaVista announced that its truncation symbol, the asterisk, can be used within a phrase search to represent an entire word.

Google has added automatic translation capability for Web pages in Italian, Spanish, German, French, and Portuguese. This appears next to results that are in one of those languages. Other new features include a preference that will automatically translate title and KWIC extracts into English for some non-English language results, and a limit of filetype: which can be used to limit search results to just Adobe PDF files by adding filetype:pdf to a search term. PDFs can be excluded by adding -filetype:pdf to search terms. The file type limit is not yet available scripted on its advanced search page.

Google Groups has expanded its advanced search capabilities and the depth of its Usenet archive, and added posting capabilities. The advanced search now has options to sort by date, and to restrict language, message ID, author, subject, date, and newsgroup. The archive now goes back to 1995, which is what the old DejaNews used to offer.

iLor has received much press lately for its innovative addition of features to the Google database. These work with Internet Explorer 5, Netscape 4.73, or better browsers, and offer a pop-up box with choices to Open in Taskbar, Open in New Window, Put in My List, and Go Now Anchor Here. However, iLor only includes English language results and, due to other inconsistencies, it retrieves fewer results than a direct search on Google. In addition, it offers no access to more than the first two results per site.

Inktomi lost the Canada.com account. Instead of using Inktomi, Canada.com now uses the metasearch engine, Dogpile, with GoTo results listed first. Ironically, on some searches, GoTo will serve up some Inktomi results.

iWon has made some substantial changes to its search functions. Results from GoTo, the paid-positioning search engine, are now featured under the heading of partner results, while Direct Hit results are harder to find, and Fact City results appear to have been abandoned. Results from Inktomi may be mixed with the GoTo results, depending on the search, as well as available under the Web Sites tab. The advanced search is gone, and the search box on most pages now defaults to a shopping search rather than a full Web search.

Magellan, one of the earliest search engines, is now gone completely. Bought by Excite years ago, it had continued to maintain its separate interface until recently. The URL, http://www.mckinley.com, now simply redirects to Excite. Meanwhile, another of Excite's properties and longtime search engine, WebCrawler, appears to have moved completely to Excite's English language database and search features, even while maintaining its traditional design.

MSN Search has finally moved to the larger Inktomi database that has also been available at iWon, NBCi, and HotBot. At the moment, MSN appears to find slightly more results than any of the other three. Meanwhile, MSN has a beta of a new MSN Search available at http://beta.search.msn.com. It still uses the Inktomi database and most search features are the same at this point, but it offers some changes for more popular searches such as more content from Encarta.

Raging Search is dead. Started by AltaVista as an alternative access point to the latter's database, AltaVista has killed it off and integrated some of its features into AltaVista. The old Raging site directs users to the text version of AltaVista as a substitute.

A Metasearch Engine Study has been posted by Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Watch at http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/01/05-metasearch.html, which does an excellent job of comparing several metasearch engines in terms of how much of their results come from paid listings versus results from major search engines. It demonstrates clearly the recent trend of metasearch engines to rely more heavily on paid results.

The Numbers: The April size comparison of search engine databases at Search Engine Showdown (http://searchengineshowdown.com/stats) put Google in the lead with the largest database, followed by Fast (used by All the Web and Lycos), and then by MSN Search's Inktomi database. AltaVista and Northern Light round out the top five.

Greg R. Notess (greg@notess.com; http://www.notess.com) is a reference librarian at Montana State University and maintains SearchEngineShowdown.com.

Comments? Email letters to the Editor to marydee@infotoday.com.

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