[Internet Search Engine Update]

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

With the crash of the dot com economy, it is perhaps no surprise to see some search engines disappearing from the scene as well. This month's update notes the death of both the Infoseek Web search engine and the Deja.com Usenet search engine.

AltaVista has gone through another facelift. Most of the portal content is gone, and the site loads faster. The Power Search and Raging Search are now linked under the Search Tools page rather than from the top page. AltaVista has added news results from Moreover to its regular search and set up a special News Search Center. A few top headlines from Moreover are now displayed above regular search results. The full Moreover news database can be searched at the News Search Center.

The regular or simple search box now processes a multiple word search using an automatic AND if the search query has four words or less and if none match a phrase in its common phrase database. If there are more than four search terms or if there are less and some of them match a phrase, AltaVista will still do an OR with the phrase matches ranking at the top.

Unfortunately, with this change, there was the unintended side effect of turning off phrase searching on the simple search. At the time of writing, using quotes to designate a phrase search did not work on the AltaVista simple search form. AltaVista states that this will be corrected in the next release, which may have occurred by the time you read this. Searchers should note that this has not changed anything on the Advanced Search, and that phrase searching still works as it should there.

Deja.com is dead. The former DejaNews site, which provided searchable access to five years of Usenet news postings and the ability to read and post news, is gone. It now redirects to Google Groups (http://groups.google.com), since Google has acquired what is left of Deja including the Usenet archive. However, what Google initially made available in place of Deja.com was an even more truncated version of the Usenet news database, from August 2000 on. It has a completely different search interface and no posting capabilities. The powerful advanced search capabilities of the old Deja.com site are also gone, although Google is slowly adding some of them back in.

Google had a backlash of negative feedback from some longtime Deja.com users, and while its Google Groups is a long way yet from the functionality of the old Deja.com site, it intends to load the whole archive and expand features. Since this is currently the only Usenet search engine and archive remaining, we can only hope that Google will deliver on its intentions. At this point, there is no crossover from the regular Google Web search site to the new Google Groups, although the Google Groups search page does give an option to search the Web instead of the Usenet database.

Excite has added a new button after the search labeled "Zoom In." It causes another window to pop up which gives suggestions for ways to refine the search, in particular by adding more precise search terms.

Google has expanded its Web index to begin including full-text indexing of over 13 million Web-accessible Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. These are identified in Google search results with a [PDF] designation before the title. Instead of a cached copy of the full PDF file, Google offers a text version. Google does not offer a scripted way to search only its indexed PDF files, but adding inurl:pdf to other search terms is generally effective in creating such a limit.

Google has also introduced a phone directory feature. Entering a person's name or phone number can pull results from its phone database above the regular search results. The database is U.S.-focused and is updated monthly.

Infoseek, one of the earliest Web search engines, is dead. Purchased by Disney back in the summer of 1999 as the central search engine and directory part of the Go.com portal, Infoseek/Go had been languishing for some time. With Disney deciding to abandon any further development of Go.com as a portal and having already sold off the underlying Ultraseek engine to Inktomi, it seemed that someone might buy up the Infoseek portion. However, the Go.com site remains as a static page linking to other Disney Web properties, but the Infoseek search engine is gone. Ironically, it has been replaced on the Go.com site by a GoTo search box, the very paid-positioning search engine that successfully sued Disney over trademark infringement last year.

Inktomi has launched a new pay-for-inclusion program called Index Connect. For paying partners, it allows the submission of meta information about multimedia and other files via an XML interchange format. On some Inktomi partners, previously unavailable material such as video clips, audio files, and even PDF documents may start appearing.

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

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

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Copyright © 2001, Information Today, Inc. All rights reserved.