After much anticipation, the new Go site from Infoseek and Disney debuted in beta format on December 14. New features will continue to be added to Go, and the service is to officially launch the week of January 11.
Go is not a replacement for Infoseek, but it draws so heavily on content from that service that it almost seems like Infoseek on steroids. There's a strong emphasis on search and navigation throughout the service, though there are plenty of efforts to feed users home-grown content from the various web properties that the Go partners own, such as Family.com and ESPN.com.
Let's start at the top. The Go home page begins with a search box, and using it produces results that are nearly identical to searching at Infoseek. That's because under the hood, it's the Infoseek index and search algorithm that's being used. Go is simply placing a different look around these results.
The key difference can be found in the "Recommended" section that comes at the beginning of results pages. Here, you'll find links to related areas within Go's "centers," as opposed to areas within Infoseek's "channels."
The names are different, but much of the content in these areas looks the same. Returning to the Go home page, you'll discover links to top level centers dominating the page. The usual topics can be found, including automotive, business, sports and travel categories.
Entering the Automotive center, one finds content very similar to that of Infoseek's Automotive channel. Where Go begins to flex its network muscles is when you enter a center that corresponds topically to one of the web properties owned by Disney and Infoseek.
For example, selecting the Sports center brings up top level content that heavily reflects the home page of ESPN.com. The Kids Center features Disney.com content prominently on its top level. In News, content from ABCnews.com is featured.
Aside from the centers, Go also features web directory and community options, organized by topic. To access these options from the home page, choose either the "Web Directory" or "Community" links that appear inside the reverse bar at the top of the page.
You'll see that these options look like tabs -- there is also one called "Go Centers." The three of them are called "Follow-Me" tabs, and they are designed to help users navigate horizontally across the web properties in the Go network.
For example, assume you enter the Sports center and click on one of the stories from ESPN. The story will load, along with the Follow-Me tabs at the top of the page. You can then choose the "Web sites" tab to view related sports web sites from the Go directory without having to navigate back up to the Go home page. Of course, the wording is inconsistent -- the tab should match the wording on the home page -- but this is still a beta site.
Watch for more tabs in the future. Infoseek says at least two, for local content and commerce options, are in the works.
Go offers personalization, something Infoseek lacks. Signing up for an account provides the user with free email, web pages, the ability to chat and other common portal services. To sign-up, or sign-in, simply follow the links next to the Go logo, in the upper left-hand corner of the page.
Personalization also works across all the sites in the Go Network. If you sign up at Go, you are covered at ABCnews.com, for example. In fact, all the Go Network sites are changing their addresses to end in go.com, such as abcnews.go.com and infoseek.go.com, so that one cookie can be used for measurement purposes. Existing addresses are to redirect to the new ones.
Go offers two new search enhancements not currently available at Infoseek: a filtering feature and new custom search collections.
Goguardian is the name of the kid-safe search feature. Similar to those at Lycos and AltaVista, it is designed to prevent objectionable pages from appearing in response to innocent searches such as "toys."
Infoseek is using similar techniques as its competitors to spot objectionable pages, including identifying pages as objectionable at the time of spidering and the use of a site block list.
In addition, Go has an advantage in that the Infoseek search algorithm was already tweaked to produce very clean results, in my opinion. Searches for innocent terms often brought up less objectionable content in comparison to some of its competitors, when I've run checks in the past.
To enable Goguardian, chose the "Search With Goguardian" option below the search box, on the home page. It can be disabled at any time.
In a separate feature, Go will warn before returning results on searches for terms that might be objectionable, even if Goguardian has not been enabled.
"We're always amazed at how many people accidentally do an explicit search, didn't realize the search was explicit, and are shocked at the results," said the Go Network's senior vice president and general manager, Barak Berkowitz.
To see this protection in action, enter any common obscenity, and you'll likely receive a warning screen that says "Adult content alert." You can then choose to proceed, or you are invited to go back to the home page and enable Goguardian.
The warning also appears for terms that aren't necessarily obscene, such as "breast," but which may result in some objectionable sites being displayed. Infoseek says it is still tweaking words on the warning list, which some people may find a bit too protective, at the moment.
Experienced searchers will likely find the page annoying, but it is easy to disable. Just choose the "Do not show alert again" option the first time the page appears, and you will have banished the alert. For new and inexperienced users, it seems like a nice educational addition.
Go also has new specialty search services called "Finders" available in various sections of the site. Finders, which ironically are rather difficult to find, get their data by custom crawling a set of sites an editor has selected, usually about 10 or so. This means that search results should be focused and of high quality in relation to the topic.
For example, there is a "Movie Review" finder in the Movies areas of the Entertainment center, which brings back results from places like Mr. Showbiz and the Cranky Critic. The same center also has a book review and album review finder. In the Kids area, a cartoon search is available. Within the Family area, a recipe search service is offered. There are also plans to add more Finders over time.
Go offers an Add URL page, but there is no reason to use this if you've already submitted to Infoseek. The Go Add URL page is simply a branded version of the Infoseek Add URL page. If you submit in one place, you are covered in both of them. There is absolutely no reason to submit to both places, Infoseek says. You gain no advantage by doing so, and in fact, you'll probably find that Infoseek's anti-spamming filter will prevent you from submitting the same URL in both places on the same day. That's something Infoseek needs to clarify.
By the way, those who have submitted to Infoseek via its Add URL page recently may have noticed a delay in getting in. This is due to work relating to the Go launch. Infoseek says new pages should begin appearing within this week, and the Add URL service will return to its normal next-business turn-around time.
The Go Network is also planning to launch a new search site stripped of portal options in the coming months, to appeal to those who want search and nothing but search.
"It will be a really pure optimized search site," Berkowitz said. "There's no place for the search person who really wants a research site without any of the portalization," he said.
The new site, planned to appear at search.go.com, will have advanced search features directly on the home page. There is also likely to be term highlighting in the results, a feature available in Infoseek's Express metasearch software, and the ability to save searches and build online clip files.
With Go on one side and a proposed new search site on the other, what's the future for the Infoseek site? Berkowitz says the company is committed to keeping the site and the brand alive, with the focus firmly on search and navigation.
What seems likely is that if enough people transition from Infoseek to Go in the next few months, then the company may feel more comfortable about turning Infoseek into the new pure search site. If the transition is slower, then running three separate search sites makes sense in that converting Infoseek into a pure search site might ostracize its existing audience -- with no guarantee that they would go to Go.
Kids Search Engines
You'll find links here to more kid-safe search options and articles that explain how filtering works.
More about Infoseek Express and other packages that allow metasearch from the desktop.
Infoseek says no to adult advertising
News.com, Dec. 9, 1998
Infoseek no longer accepts adult advertising, and Go won't either. More details about the move.
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