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Magazines > Online > March/April 2003
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Online Magazine
Vol. 27 No. 2 — March/April 2003
Internet Search Engine Update
by Greg R. Notess
Reference Librarian, Montana State University

Internet Search Engine Update goes up on the Web at as soon as it is written, approximately one month before the print issue mails to subscribers.

AlltheWeb is now indexing and including Microsoft Word files available on the Web. The advanced search form has added Microsoft Word as a File Format limit to the PDF and Flash options. In addition, the file formats can be searched from the command box by using filetype:with either pdf, flash, or msword after the colon. AlltheWeb appears to be indexing about 14 million PDFs, 2 million Word documents, and 1 million Flash files.  

AltaVista has added a few new features to its news search. It now claims about 3,000 news sources, including feeds from Moreover and sites like the New York Times. New search features include a date range limit with both pre-selected time periods as well as the ability for the searcher to specify a specific date range. It also added a limit to retrieve articles that only contain associated news images. Note that AltaVista's news search includes a greater archive depth than most other search engine's news searches, with some articles dating back a year or more.

Ask Jeeves has announced that it will no longer have banner ads on its site. The ban on banners joined the earlier ban of pop-up and other interstitial ads on Ask Jeeves sites (which includes Teoma). Instead, it plans on generating income using what it calls "Branded Response" and "Premier Listings." Basically, it is moving to text ads rather than graphic ads.

Google has been busy on the experimental front again. It recently launched Froogle, a product search engine currently available in beta mode []. Named as a play on both Google and Frugal, this new search engine contains just products. Sellers can get their products included for free, potentially using a data feed. The database is certainly different than regular Google, in part because Froogle includes price, store name, and sometimes even a product picture. Meanwhile, Google Labs [] has added the Google Viewer, which scrolls through Google search results while also showing a preview of each page, and Google Webquotes, which lists quotes from other pages that point to the top 10 results from a search.

HotBot has relaunched and now can search four distinct databases: Inktomi, Google, FAST, and Teoma. While it makes it easy to search all four of these important databases, a few search features are lost from the old days: truncation, word stemming, the name search, and full Boolean capabilities. See Mary Ellen Bate's "Online Spotlight" for a more detailed review.

Inktomi released its Web Search 9, although it is not yet available from all its partners. It now includes indexed file formats such as PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, and Excel spreadsheet files. It offers English-language spelling suggestions for names as well as dictionary terms. It claims an even fresher database that is completely re-indexed every 10-14 days, with paid inclusion URLs re-indexed every 48 hours. It sometimes uses a keyword-in-context (KWIC) display for results while others still use a summary. Then, to top it all off, the company is to get bought out by Yahoo! (see below for more details).

Northern Light retreats even further from the useful search engine it used to be. Parent company divine, Inc. stopped selling Special Collection documents on a pay-per-view basis as of early January and is no longer accepting new enterprise customers. The Alerts feature has been shut down, and even the news wire search engine is expected to cease to be available soon.

Teoma now has an advanced search page and some customization options. The advanced search includes word filters, field searches for title or URL (although those two cannot be used together), expanded language limits, a geographic region limit, and a date limit. You can get up to 100 results at a time on the advanced search or by using the customization option. Like Inktomi, it has added spelling suggestions for English terms.

Yahoo! announced a definitive agreement to acquire Inktomi. Assuming the deal goes through, Yahoo! will finally have its own search engine. What that will eventually change on its site remains to be seen, since it currently uses Google results and rankings. The obvious assumption is that Inktomi results will eventually come back to Yahoo!, but there has been no such announcement and no public timeline for any such change.

The Numbers: There have been many claimed huge size increases from several of the search engines, with Google and Inktomi claiming 3 billion. The December size comparison of search engine database size at Search Engine Showdown [] found Google still leading the pack, but AlltheWeb, AltaVista, and Teoma had significant growth as well.

Greg NotessGreg R. Notess (; is a reference librarian at Montana State University and founder of

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