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Magazines > Online > Sep/Oct 2004
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Online Magazine
Vol. 28 No. 5 — Sep/Oct 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 added indexed PDF files to its results. These are tagged with a "PDF file" label in red after the title. These labels appear in regular search results, but neither the advanced search page nor a command line option is available to limit searches to include only PDF files. No other additional file types are available at this point. However, Ask has added more "SmartSearch" shortcuts including movies, wedding registry, Federal Express and UPS tracking, U.S. people search, definitions, navigation, sports teams, terror alerts, do not call registry, and current events. Most do not require special syntax, and, like the other SmartSearch shortcuts, the answers are presented above both the ads and regular search results. The help page [http://static.wc.ask.com/docs/announcements/searchsmarter.html] has the full list.

For Internet Explorer users, Ask added a "binoculars preview." The small binoculars icon that shows up next to many search results lets a user mouse over the icon to see a small image of the Web page. Ask also announced that it will be doing away with its pay-for-inclusion program, although this option will be in effect until the end of September. It does not yet have any option for free submission of URLs; whether or not it will offer free submission remains to be seen.

Gigablast has been busy expanding its database size. It now claims over half a billion pages indexed. While that is still considerably smaller than other search engines, it is certainly gaining ground. In addition, many of its results appear to be indexed more frequently.

Google is now indexing the text content of Flash files. Removed from AlltheWeb, this option is now only available at Google. A limit is available by using filetype:swf in combination with search terms. Google added a local search option (still in beta) for U.S. locations. Enter a U.S. city name or ZIP code with search terms and phone directory-style results appear at the top of the regular results. The local results include store name, distance from the center of town, address, and phone number. The direct version [http://local.google.com] gives more than three results and also tries to guess Web sites connected to the businesses. That part does not always work well.

Google Groups now has a Google Groups 2 Beta (available from Google Labs or directly at http://groups-beta.google.com). In addition to some differences in display, such as the annoying lack of the ability to sort by date, which is available in the regular Google Groups, the main difference is that Google Groups 2 offers the ability to create your own groups, rather like Yahoo! Groups.

MSN Search has a new look with a much simpler front page. Access to other databases is available in a drop-down menu box. While still powered by a Yahoo! database, MSN now has a version that does not include paid-inclusion pages. MSN continues to find fewer results than the same search done directly at Yahoo!. While the main MSN Search continues to use a portion of the Yahoo! database, it has a completely new database under development. The first public view of this new search engine is available at http://techpreview.search.msn.com. Unfortunately, there is no advanced search form and little documentation. The only advanced search features currently supported appear to be the site: and link: field searches. As at Yahoo!, the link: search needs to start with http://. This preview has a smaller database, claiming about 1 billion records. While it is worth a look, it does not always work correctly. In addition, it does not cluster results by site yet, which hurts the relevance of its results.

Teoma continues to share its database with Ask Jeeves, but it only gets some of the new Ask features. The indexed PDF files are included, with a green "PDF File" label. Again, no command line or advanced search limit is available to retrieve only PDF files. Neither the new search shortcuts nor the binoculars preview at Ask Jeeves are available at Teoma. However, Ask's announced removal of the pay-for-inclusion program also applies at Teoma.

Yahoo! is testing a new design for its results page. It makes the related search suggestions more prominent under an "also try" label. The tab options, which can show results from other Yahoo! databases, lose their tab look and move to the top in a similar fashion to Google's new look. Unfortunately, another major loss is that matching directory categories no longer display at the top, although the category links do still display with individual records that are also listed in the directory. The new design adds a link to a Yahoo! shortcuts help page. New shortcuts include area codes, gas prices, ZIP codes, exchange rates, movie show times, a calculator, conversions, and time zones. Yahoo!'s toolbar added (in beta) a spyware and adware button for identifying and removing such programs.


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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