About The Update
The Search Engine Update is a twice-monthly update of search engine news. It is available only to those people who have subscribed to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/.
Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Cut and paste, should this occur.
In This Issue
+ General Notes
+ Yahoo Opens Express Submission Service
+ Lycos To Merge With USA Network
+ HotBot Integrates Popularity Into Top Results
+ MSN Partners With LookSmart
+ Excite, Netscape Sued Over Banner Ads
+ Searching For MP3 Gets Easier
+ Amazon Paid Placements Raise Ethics Questions
+ Search Engine Notes
+ Search Engine Articles
+ Subscribing/Unsubscribing Info
Getting Away From Words-On-The-Page Relevancy
Is The Lycos MP3 Index Legal?
Inktomi Launches New Search Options, Europe Deal
First of all, there were so many stories this month that I've had to publish some of them only via the web. Otherwise, the newsletter would have been much larger than normal. These articles are all noted above. Most are sidebars to stories below, and I've also listed them as links, where appropriate.
Within the Subscribers-Only Area, you'll discover that I've created a new home page, which I hope makes it easier to see at-a-glance all the content available within the area. I'd also point out that the new table-of-contents page for the "How Search Engines Work" section now lists the date each page was updated, along with general comments about what was changed. I hope this makes it easier to know when you should reread a particular page.
Finally, thanks to the many people who sent congratulatory messages on the birth of my son. They were well appreciated. A couple of people asked me about the origin of his name, Declan. It's Irish, and comes from the name of a 5th century Irish saint. We liked the sound of it and that it was Celtic, since I'm Irish-American and my wife is half-Welsh. His Welsh grandfather already envisions him playing rugby for Wales in the Five Nations Championship -- I would support Ireland, and his English grandmother pulls for England. So maybe I'll get him into baseball, instead :)
Search Engine News
Submitting to Yahoo has long been one of the more frustrating experiences for many webmasters. Submissions go in, but no action may be taken for weeks or months, if at all.
Yahoo has done a number of things to help improve matters over the past few months, and the latest was the introduction of Yahoo Business Express, a US $199 service which guarantees a yes or no answer to whether a site will be listed within seven business days.
I've read a number of negative comments about the new service in various places, and I suspect many of them are due to misconceptions to how Business Express works. There are reasons to be critical, but there are also advantages to the system.
Business Express allows webmasters to pay for guaranteed consideration of their sites, not for guaranteed listings. Payment does not ensure that a site will be listed or even exactly how it will be listed. You can pay $199 and have your site rejected, or it may be accepted but not into the category you wanted, or with a description different from what you submitted. This is all true of the normal submission process, as well.
Yahoo emphasizes what Business Express does not guarantee for a good reason. The company wants to be perfectly clear that money will not influence its editorial process. This emphasis on the negatives can make the system sound like nothing more than Yahoo collecting $199 to do its usual rejection of web sites, only faster.
This is not the case. The vast majority of sites submitted through Business Express are listed in Yahoo, in contrast to the situation where most sites submitted through the normal process are not listed.
"The rejection rate is very low," said Yahoo's Srinija Srinivasan, who oversees the listing process, of the Business Express service.
Srinivasan declined to state any actual numbers, but I have no doubt most Business Express sites get in. That's because most sites submitted to Yahoo, via Express or otherwise, would be listed if editors had enough time to look at them all.
Many people are under the impression that Yahoo rejects most of the sites submitted to it. That's not the case. Some sites are indeed rejected for not being substantial enough or for being of poor quality. But the main reason most sites don't get listed is because Yahoo editors simply don't have time to look at all the submissions they receive.
Business Express guarantees that an editor will actually look at your submission, and that fact alone greatly increases the odds of being accepted. It also helps that -- in general -- those who can afford the fee probably have more substantial web sites than those using the normal submission process.
So while Yahoo says you can't pay to be listed, the reality is that paying will help. If you have the money, and your site fits into a Business Express-enabled category, you are likely to get in over a site that hasn't paid.
Unfair! That's certainly a theme you'll hear in some comments about the service. There comes across a sense that Yahoo is now discriminating against small sites that can't afford the Express submission fee. There's also a sense that Yahoo owes something to these small sites. After all, small sites form the bulk of Yahoo's listings, and links from small sites across the web give Yahoo serious grassroots traffic.
There's some element of truth here. But to be fair, Yahoo has not removed its normal submission process. Sites can still submit for free the old way.
"There is no excluding going on that is new. We've never been able to get to everyone," Srinivasan said. "Business Express offers an avenue exactly for that person who feels they were excluded before."
It can even be argued that Business Express may help the normal system. Yahoo says new editors for Express are funded out of the fees collected. That means the old system hasn't lost anything in terms of editor power. Additionally, if Business Express did not exist, then submissions to it would go into the already overloaded normal system. Thus, the new system helps to relieve the old system to a degree -- it could even be seen as beginning to subsidize it.
The subsidy idea is interesting. GoTo once suggested to me that in the future, non-profit or educational groups might be able to get credit on their system. In this way, sites with no publicity budgets could do temporary promotions to raise their prominence within a system designed to favor those with money.
Perhaps the upset over Express would be less if Yahoo had done a better job at promoting what it has done recently to make submitting easier.
The most important improvement was establishing a URL support email address at the end of last year. I've seen this work quickly first-hand, and I've received good feedback from others who have used it to follow up on their submissions. The problem is that many webmasters have never heard of the address, which I'd blame on the poor organization of Yahoo's help pages.
Back when I did my Yahoo Submission Survey in mid-1997, I made detailed comments about how little online help Yahoo provided regarding submissions. They made a number of helpful changes soon after that. Then at the beginning of this year, Yahoo added even more information to help those submitting -- but it's very hard to find.
If you go to the Yahoo home page, down at the bottom is a link that says "How to Suggest a Site." This leads to a single page with some relatively basic tips on submitting.
In contrast, a much better guide can be found if you enter the Yahoo help area, by clicking on the help icon at the top of the Yahoo home page. This leads to Yahoo How-To, where you'll in turn find a link called "Suggesting a Site." This brings up a more helpful seven page tutorial on submitting to Yahoo.
Did you follow all that? It's no wonder webmasters may be overlooking this tutorial.
The real gold mine of submission help is buried even deeper. Going back to the main Yahoo How-To page, you'll see an option called Yahoo Help Central. Selecting that takes you to a page where there's an easily missed link called "My Site in Yahoo." Added earlier this year, the area provides answers to many specific questions about submitting, as well as the valuable URL support address. Each page also leads to a feedback form, if you are not happy with the answer provided.
I suspect people would have more success submitting to Yahoo if this information was easier to find. Centralizing the different resources mentioned above would help. It would also be good to provide these answers in a single page format, for those who want to read them offline. Most important, the home page "How to Suggest a Site" link should lead directly to the high-quality information available in the "My Site in Yahoo" section. That's the obvious link submitters will be following, so they shouldn't have to play hopscotch through the help area to locate other submission tips.
Yahoo says it's in the midst of reorganizing its help pages, so perhaps these type of changes will come. This also means some of the help URLs I've noted below may change in as little as a week.
So Yahoo has made changes to improve the submission situation, and I certainly hear fewer complaints now than I have in the past. But many people obviously still have problems getting listed. Good sites may be missed. Getting entries changed can still take time. Sites face serious problems in the fact that Yahoo may not subcategorize them as well as they should do. Isn't there more that can be done other than instituting a fee-based express submission service?
Certainly Yahoo could, and probably should, hire many more editors. It is facing new competition from players like LookSmart and the Netscape Open Directory. To maintain its editorial lead, it will need to expand and improve its listing system.
Srinivasan disagrees, at least in terms of scale. "I wouldn't characterize it as a weakness that we don't get to everything," she said, explaining as she has in the past that Yahoo wants to exercise some degree of selectivity and to prioritize editor time around the areas of most interest to users, not to submitters.
Fair enough. Users do benefit from a selectively-assembled directory. But as mentioned above, most sites aren't getting in because they are bad but because editors are not reviewing them at all. That's a weakness, in my book.
Perhaps Express will be a first step in a reform of Yahoo's submission system. Webmasters that need an immediate answer now have an option for getting one.
"We realize there are some folks for whom it is really critical that they hear something quickly. It is extremely pertinent that they know in a timely manner if their listing is going to appear, Srinivasan said. "We know this because they are telling us this."
Indeed, the reason for moving ahead came out of the positive feedback Yahoo got when they polled submitters on the subject last year. I've received similar feedback from webmasters that this was something they wanted. That's another reason Srinivasan is perplexed that people are upset over the system. She says it is Yahoo reacting to what webmasters want, not as an attempt to make money.
"In terms of revenue stream, this is very small," Srinivasan said. "We're not asking anyone to take us up on this. We were asked to do this time and time again."
Here we'll differ, though. I think most webmasters who have wanted a paid submission system didn't expect for it to be limited to e-commerce sites. To me, this is one of the biggest flaws the system has.
Srinivasan said the decision to limit express consideration to e-commerce sites was made in part for logistical reasons. They needed a core group of categories that was manageable.
"This was sort of a line we could draw in the sand that made a good step that was maintainable and supportable," she said.
Additionally, e-commerce sites were also seen as needing an option for fast responses more than other site owners.
"This is serving the narrow segment of folks who's livelihood is made online," Srinivasan said. "It helps that segment where it really is mission critical to get an answer, and it also helps support and foster the growth of online commerce."
It also doesn't hurt that Yahoo runs an e-commerce hosting service called Yahoo Store, where users can easily establish online shops. What they haven't been able to do easily is get listed within the Yahoo directory.
"Can't you get me listed in Yahoo?" or similar queries were the number one questions that Yahoo Store merchants were asking Yahoo Store's support department, it was reported last fall. The answer was "No." Yahoo Store had no way to help its customers get listed faster in Yahoo.
Now Yahoo Store has an excellent and easy to understand answer to hand out -- "Sure, it just costs a little extra." And to sweeten the deal, Yahoo has a special promotional offer that bundles Business Express with some other promotional opportunities within Yahoo.
Srinivasan denied that satisfying Yahoo Store merchants was a primary reason for targeting e-commerce with Business Express.
"I don't think it is true we are targeting that particular audience because it coincides with Yahoo Store," she said. "That audience overall is important, as is the idea of supporting online commerce in anyway."
Overall, I completely disagree with the idea that e-commerce sites have a more "mission critical" need to know if they'll be listed in Yahoo than other sites. There are plenty of sites that don't sell products but which do need to know quickly if they'll appear in the directory. I can understand starting off slowly with Business Express, but Yahoo needs to commit to offering this service to anyone in the near future.
Several people have also asked me if I think charging is fair, in general. I have mixed feelings on this.
The pro part of me thinks this is inevitable, and to some degree, desirable. It borders on the absurd to explain to a large company that it may or may not get listed in the web's most important directory, and that it may involve submitting over months. Paying for prompt attention makes a lot of sense, and it is easier to understand.
The con part of me likes small sites. I don't want them to be excluded or bumped into second class just because they don't have the money. They ought to get prompt attention also. That means I don't have a problem with the fee-based system as long as it is clear that the free system is also being improved alongside it.
Submitting Via Yahoo's Business Express
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1999
A sidebar to the above article that covers specific tips about using the new service.
Yahoo Business Express Home Page
General details about the service, with links to terms.
Business Express Categories
Here's which categories have been Business Express-enabled.
Yahoo Business Express Help
Detailed answers about the service.
How Yahoo Works
Detailed explanation on how to submit properly to Yahoo using its normal system.
Yahoo Listing Support Address Available
The Search Engine Update, Jan. 5, 1999
Details how to use the support address correctly.
Yahoo How-To: Suggesting Sites to Yahoo
A seven page tutorial on submitting properly to the directory.
My Site in Yahoo
Excellent answers to specific submission questions, a URL-support email address and feedback forms.
Boo for Yahoo
Salon, Feb. 22, 1999
Aaron Weiss flies past too quickly over what's likely to be one of Yahoo's biggest future problems -- the fact that it continues to want its surfers to be rooted in California. I was amazed awhile back when an ad came up for a surfer to cover the UK, along with the requirement that the person had to based in California. It just makes good sense to have your regional editors live in their regions.
Yay for Yahoo
Salon, Feb. 22, 1999
Andrew Leonard still likes Yahoo, even if Business Express gives him pause for concern.
Unsolicited Pundit: #1
Glenn Fleishman, Feb. 27, 1999
Glenn Fleishman was the force that united online marketers back in the web's early days and remains a voice to be respected. He shakes his head at Yahoo's inability to process submissions promptly. A note here: Yahoo deliberately does not send out formal notices even though its system is already wired to do so as quickly as Fleishman would like. The reason is to avoid a situation where someone submitting begins to argue their case after being rejected. There are arguments for not opening this type of dialog, and issues of submission spamming also come into play. Still, it would still be nice to see Yahoo provide more feedback along the lines that Fleishman proposes.
Yahoo asks sites to pay for privilege
ZDNN, Feb. 10, 1999
Skip the basic details about the service and head into the feedback area to see what some web users think. It's mostly negative comments. But keep in mind these are not site promoters.
AudetteMedia, Feb. 1999
Arguments pro and con regarding Business Express, from participants on this list dedicated to search issues. Discussion started around issue 99, which should appear on the second link when the archives are finally posted.
Yahoo Considers Express Submission Service
The Search Engine Report, Oct. 5, 1998
Explains some of the reasons why Yahoo has created the new service.
On February 9, Lycos and USA Networks announced plans to merge their various Internet and e-commerce businesses into a new company called USA/Lycos Interactive Networks.
If approved by investors, the new company will be firmly grounded in the business of selling consumer goods. It would be a dramatic shift for Lycos, whose core business to date has been that of a media property.
Retailing partnerships for portals like Lycos are not new -- we've lived with them for nearly two years now. But the proposed new company would give Lycos an interest in selling goods and services to its users far beyond what any search portal has ever had before.
The new company would have various properties in its network, including existing Lycos sites such as the Lycos search engine, HotBot, Tripod and WhoWhere. Added to this would be Ticketmaster, CitySearch, the Home Shopping Network and First Auction.
At a press briefing last Friday, Lycos CEO Bob Davis outlined the cross-promotional opportunities the new network would offer for touting the new company's products. There was talk of "turning viewers into buyers," and the ability to pitch products to consumers dominated the presentation.
That wasn't surprising, given that Lycos is trying to build up support among its stockholders that the deal is a money maker for them. Lycos stock dropped after the deal was announced, and some angry shareholders have filed suit against the company.
Thus, Lycos has good reason to focus on the ability for the new company to sell goods. But that focus raises questions over whether the flagship Lycos search site is about to be transformed into an online shopping mall, rather than the search-and-navigation center that it is today.
Davis said at the press conference that it hadn't been determined which Lycos property would carry the weight of the shopping moves. "I don't know what brand we'll put against this," Davis said. "There is a lot of consumer research that has to take place."
Lycos spokesperson Brian Payea said it wasn't likely that the flagship Lycos site itself would be radically transformed. "We recognize why our users come to the site, and we are going to stay focused on search as a top priority and providing the overall experience that those people are looking for," he said.
Even if this is so, we can almost certainly expect online shopping to filter more heavily into the Lycos site than ever before. It will be interesting to see whether this causes users to turn away, if they'll welcome it, or if Lycos will attract a different audience that wants that type of experience.
Lycos results boost debate over USA Networks
San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 26, 1999
Lycos defends USA Networks deal
News.com, Feb. 26, 1999
Lycos Says Wired Deal to Go Forward
InternetNews.com, Feb. 19, 1999
In Every Way, Lycos/USA ,Is a Big Deal
Internet World, Feb. 15, 1999
Lycos Plans Merger With USA Networks
Industry Standard, Feb. 12, 1999
Can USA Networks turn Lycos into an e-commerce winner?
Red Herring, Feb. 11, 1999
Direct Hit is now powering most of HotBot's top results, a change that means clickthrough data is now heavily responsible for what appears in response to a search.
HotBot has not dumped Inktomi, but when there is relevant data from Direct Hit, those matches are presented on the first page of results, then Inktomi matches are listed next.
"We see this as a way for us to combine the true benefits of both of these technologies and provide people with the most accurate results," said David Pritchard, HotBot's marketing director.
Direct Hit is a system that measures what pages users select from search results and roughly how long they spend visiting these pages. In a very simplistic explanation, the more "popular" pages as measured by these factors rise to the top of the list.
HotBot had allowed users to view Direct Hit results in the form of a "Top 10" option that was presented along with Inktomi-powered results. If users selected the option, Direct Hit results were displayed in place of Inktomi's results. Now, Direct Hit data will appear in response to queries by default.
"We've made the change first and foremost because of the reaction we've had from our HotBot users. We had almost unanimous and unequivocal reaction from HotBot users praising the program and saying they greatly value this set of results," Pritchard said.
One question that often comes up when people consider the Direct Hit system is whether sites that are listed first in the results are given an unnatural advantage over sites listed further down. After all, the first sites will naturally attract more clicks than those buried in the results. Doesn't that mean they'll always continue to be ranked well?
The answer is that Direct Hit adjusts for these type of things. It knows the amount of clicks that a top ranked site would typically receive. If the top sites don't hit this average, they drop in rank. Similarly, the weight a click carries is magnified by how deep a site is buried. Five people visiting a top ranked site might not count for much, since a top ranked site should get many visitors. But five people visiting a site buried in the results carry much more weight in moving that site up the rankings.
With HotBot, Direct Hit says it has had to make yet a further adjustment, to compensate for the fact that the top listings in its refined results generate an even higher clickthrough than a typical search engine. For instance, it says the top spot in a typical search engine generates a 18 percent clickthrough, while its refined results shoot that rate up to 30 percent, because the match is much more relevant.
"We did have to make a change in the algorithm, and we've spent months figuring out what the right formula is," said Direct Hit CEO Mike Cassidy.
Keep in mind that I'm simplifying in the above examples, and there are other factors Direct Hit uses in its ranking algorithms. But the examples do give you a general idea on how the system works.
Another common question is whether webmasters can artificially boost themselves by simply clicking on their links many times. Direct Hit says it has systems in place to prevent this type of behavior, and I've not seen any evidence of the results being manipulated in the time I've watched the system. However, I think it has also been mostly ignored by webmasters. Now that Direct Hit results are the primary ones delivered by HotBot, it will be interesting to see if the system faces a stronger challenge by webmasters.
What if you don't like Direct Hit results? Professional researchers especially may not want user data interfering with complex queries they may construct. Generally, if you begin to use any of the advanced controls at HotBot such as field searching, Direct Hit won't have enough data to refine the results. Instead, you'll get all-Inktomi listings.
Aside from HotBot, Direct Hit also has debuted at ZD Net, where it is refining site specific searches. I was particularly impressed with how helpful it was when I came across the Direct Hit option last week. I was looking for articles about laser printers and was overwhelmed with the results that came up. But once I selected the Direct Hit option, I got a dramatically better set of results -- much more noticeable than the difference between Inktomi and Direct Hit results at HotBot. I wonder if Direct Hit's real strength may be in improving site specific searches, which are often woefully inadequate.
To use Direct Hit at ZDNet, just look for the "Top 10 Most Visited ZDNet Pages" link that appears just above the actual search results.
Finally, Direct Hit has always been a system that works with an existing search service, not one that can stand-alone. That's about to change. The company has developed its own crawling system, which means it can gather the raw data for customers without an existing search partner and then refine those results using its popularity measuring technology.
Getting Away From Words-On-The-Page Relevancy
The Search Engine Report, March 3, 1999
A sidebar to the above article that talks about the trend in getting away from words-on-the-page as a means of improving relevancy.
A Direct Hit on Inktomi?
Red Herring, Feb. 22, 1999
Some media have taken the Direct Hit-HotBot announcement as another slap against Inktomi. I think that's a bit strong. HotBot is not abandoning Inktomi, but the company will see a significant short-term drop in traffic from HotBot due to the Direct Hit changeover.
Searching In Dolby
Forbes, Feb. 20, 1999
Direct Hit is on a roll, and its main hurdle is that all the recent portal mergers push back the completion of deals.
Microsoft has licensed the LookSmart directory for integration into its MSN Search service, through a five-year deal announced on February 9.
Currently, MSN Search results come entirely from Inktomi. But over the coming months, relevant LookSmart data will begin to precede crawler-based results, which themselves will later be supplied by AltaVista.
Most services that draw results from both a human-compiled directory and a crawler-based index make a delineation between the two. MSN Search doesn't intend to do this with its directory results.
For instance, do a search at Yahoo, and there's a clear separation between web site results from the Yahoo directory and web page matches from the Inktomi search engine. This also happens at Snap, Infoseek and LookSmart itself. In contrast, MSN Search won't draw a line between the two.
"It will be a unified user experience that seamlessly knits together both worlds," said Bill Bliss, general manager of MSN Search. "What's the difference between a 'site' and a 'web page'? Absolutely nothing, except that a site comes from one database and a web page comes from another. That's the key distinction we are not making, because we don't believe it's a useful one for users to understand."
MSN Search will also debut what looks to be an impressive save results feature this month, in conjunction with the Internet Explorer 5 release planned for March 18. The new browser also has a number of new search enhancements, including Alexa-powered related links.
I'll be reviewing these in more depth next month, as well as checking back on Netscape's Smart Browsing features. In short, there have been a lot of advances from both companies along these fronts, and I've been extremely impressed by some of the results that they provide.
FYI, for those that have been submitting to LookSmart, the company says that the mass publication of user submitted sites being held in the system is about four to six weeks away. RealNames links are also active on the system. If you are looking for them, when available, they appear between the LookSmart directory results (matches from "world" or "around the world") and the AltaVista web results (matches from "entire web").
IE5 will be available from this link on March 18.
See the type of results you'll get when searching from the address line within Internet Explorer 5.
Don't have Netscape Communicator 4 or higher? Check out the type of results it provides when searching from the address line.
Another Start for Indefatigable MSN
Internet World, Feb. 15, 1999
MSN has launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign to promote the new MSN, which is trying more than ever to increase connectivity between its various sites.
LookSmart Launches Local Search, Plans Directory Expansion
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 22, 1998
Mass publication of user submitted sites at LookSmart -- what's that? If you don't know, this article explains.
Playboy has followed Estie Lauder's lead in suing Excite over keyword-linked banner ads. At issue in both cases is whether Excite has the right to sell banner advertising linked to trademarked terms to anyone other than the trademark holders. Netscape has also been named in the Playboy suit, as Excite handles advertising for its site.
Search engines have long sold banner ads linked to search terms. For instance, enter "cars" at any of the search engines, and you'll get targeted ads from makers such as Honda, Chevrolet and Toyota. Now it seems likely that the courts will decide whether search engines have the same right to sell ads linked to trademarked-terms without the owner's permission.
In the Estie Lauder case, three of the company's subsidiaries filed suit on January 19 against Excite. Particular complaints include the fact that a search for "Estie Lauder" or "Origins" brings up banner ads for sites run by The Fragrance Counter, a fragrance and cosmetics retailer. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
The Playboy suit is similar. Playboy filed suit in early February against Excite and Netscape for serving up banner ads for other sites when users search for "playboy." It also claims that the type of ads appearing sully its reputation. The site was filed with the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
I'm slated to be an expert witness against Playboy in the Terri Welles case, which involves the use of trademarked terms in meta tags. Consequently, I won't be commenting on these latest suits. However, you will find coverage in the articles below.
Search engine advertising drives companies to court
Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1999
A good article with one big mistake. The courts have not ruled that trademarked terms cannot be used in meta tags. In the Terri Welles case, the court ruled use of trademarked terms was just and appropriate.
Playboy sues Netscape, Excite over ads
San Jose Business Journal, Feb. 22, 1999
Another good review of facts and issues in the case.
Lawsuits Challenge Sales of Keywords to Advertisers
Internet World, Feb. 22, 1999
Playboy fights for trademark protection
News.com, Feb. 11, 1999
Online Advertising Discussion List
Comments both pro and con were raised during February, plus a statement from Estee Lauder was circulated. The online archives are currently down, but there is a way to get archives via email.
Enter a search term, and you'll then see banner ads from various major search engines that appear in response.
Search Engines and Legal Issues
Links and resources relating to meta tag disputes and other issues.
Two new resources have opened for those seeking MP3 files, a popular high-quality format for storing music electronically. One comes from search service Lycos, while the other is from metasearch service SavvySearch.
Lycos opened its MP3 search service on February 1. Powered by technology from the Norwegian-based search company FAST, the service has over 1/2 million files listed. Lycos said it launched the specialty service because so many people were looking for MP3 files -- the term is in the top five searches at both Lycos and Lycos-owned HotBot.
Searching is easy. Simply enter the song title or artist name, and the service returns links to files that contain those words in the file name. The display shows the file size, date it was uploaded and the reliability of the host site. Lycos says the index is updated on an hourly basis, and the most reliable and freshest links are ranked first.
Lycos isn't the only site offering dedicated MP3 searching, but it does claim to be 10 times larger than any of the other services available. To test this, I did some quick queries to see how it stacked up against 2look4, AudioFind, AudioGalaxy, MediaFind and Oth.net.
I searched for "adia" (by Sarah McLachlan) to test matches to a broadly popular song; "just a girl" (by No Doubt) for another popular song from a different genre; and "99 luftballoons" (by Nena) for a non-English song that was nevertheless popular in the United States and elsewhere. My ultimate challenge was "schmetterlinge" (by Bl|mchen), who I've only ever heard of in Germany (and one of my favorite CDs).
FYI, my understanding is that it is illegal for anyone to be posting these particular songs to the web, though there are thousands of legal MP3 files available, in particular through the MP3.com site. See the link below for an offline article about the legal implications of Lycos linking to these files.
The Lycos service performed superbly, even finding 10 matches for the "schmetterlinge" search, far more than any of the services I tested it against. But aside from that search, the other services performed did OK. Oth.net, AudioGalaxy and 2look4 all provided complete coverage, with at least one match for each song -- and many more for the popular songs. After them came AudioFind and then MediaFind.
How to choose between them? Lycos is the clear winner when it comes to comprehensiveness, but interface may also be an important factor for selecting a service. I liked the clean, simple look at Lycos, but others may prefer the additional file information presented by some of the other services. Highlights about them can be found on the new Multimedia and MP3 Search Engines page within Search Engine Watch.
Want to do an even more comprehensive search? The new MP3meta service from SavvySearch sends your queries to eight different services, including Lycos and the ones mentioned above. You'll find matches from Lycos results tend to dominate the results, but other services are definitely included.
HotBot has also sprouted new MP3 functionality. Underneath the search box on the home page, you'll see text that says "Pages Must Include" followed by four checkboxes. Select the MP3 box, do a search, and only pages linking to MP3 files with your search terms in the link, or appearing on the page itself, will be listed. However, you can't download directly, as with the services above.
Lycos/FAST MP3 Search
All things about MP3, including thousands of legal MP3 files.
Links and more details about some of the sites above.
Lycos Directory For MP3 Is Boost For Music Format
Internet World, Feb. 8, 1999
More on the why Lycos launched its service. Imagine, sometimes MP3 is a more popular search term than sex!
Is The Lycos MP3 Index Legal
The Search Engine Report, Feb. 3, 1999
A sidebar to the above article that examines how Lycos may be violating a new US copyright law with its index.
Amazon is not a search engine, but the recent revelations that publishers have paid for placement within the service have caused questions to be raised about paid placements within search engines.
Search results themselves remain "editorial" copy that cannot be purchased by advertisers, except at GoTo.com. But since mid-1997, "content" partnerships have proliferated at all the major search sites. Advertising related links have also moved into the main results areas themselves, either down the sides of results or appearing above and below them.
In the New York Times article below, a Yahoo vice president claims that a large majority of web users understand what's presented though deals versus what's presented through editorial choice. I'd disagree with this. I suspect that the majority of web users have no idea how or why certain links appear within search engine channels and alongside search results.
I think eventually web users will learn the distinction between advertising and editorial at web sites, in the same way newspaper readers can readily identify ads from news articles. But as Amazon moves toward labeling its paid content, it will be interesting to see if search services also feel they need to also make things clearer for their visitors. It would certainly help to educate users more.
It would be particularly ironic if the prominent links to Amazon from several of the major search engine themselves were labeled as paid placements.
Caveat Emptor on the Web: Ad and Editorial Lines Blur
New York Times, Feb. 26, 1999
An excellent article covering how the lines can get blurred between advertising and editorial at search services and elsewhere.
Online Editors Aim to Sharpen Blurry Lines
Industry Standard, Feb. 15, 1999
Covers how the line seems to be slipping between editorial and advertising online.
Selling Books or Screen Space?
Reuters, Feb. 9, 1999
Details of the Amazon paid placements revelations.
Amazon Admits Paid Placements
Wired News, Feb. 9, 1999
Covers Amazon's decision to begin labeling paid placements.
Want A Top Listing? Become A Content Partner!
The Search Engine Report, Aug. 5, 1997
I said turning advertising into "content" was fraught with problems for users back when we first started seeing retailer deals appear.
Search Engine Notes
Google Gets New Commands
Google has added new search commands that brings it inline with those offered by most of the other major search services. In particular, you can now perform a phrase search using quotation marks and exclude terms using the - symbol.
Search Engine Math
Explains how to use commands like those Google has added at the major search engines, in order to improve your results. Note: the new Google data has not yet been posted here.
GoTo Sues Go Network Over Logo
GoTo.com is suing the Go Network alleging that the Go Network logo is too similar to GoTo's own logo. The articles below have more details. And just to show that great minds think alike, take a look at the logo for British Airway's budget carrier, Go.
GoTo.com Files Complaint Against Go Network
InternetNews.com, Feb. 18, 1999
GoTo.com suing Disney's Go Network
News.com, Feb. 18, 1999
Search Utility Makers Release New Versions
Intelliseek has released a new version of its BullsEye metasearch software. BullsEye 1.5 allows users to tap into over 450 search sources from the desktop. The new version allows users to share saved searches, results and tracking items. Special reports are now also available for viewing on PDAs. The software is available for Windows. The basic version is US$49, and BullsEye Pro is $149.
Also out is Copernic 99, the latest version of the Copernic metasearch software that allows users to search over 125 search engines. Among new features is the ability to duplicate searches and share them between users, a customizable toolbar and keyword highlighting in results lists. A free version is available that offers web and newsgroup-only searching, while the Plus version for $30 allows specialty searches.
I haven't looked at either of these new releases yet, but the article link below covers previous versions and gives you an idea of the advantages of search utilities like these.
Search Utilities Go Beyond Metasearch
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 2, 1998
Search Engine Articles
Infoseek latest portal to plan frequent-use rewards
News.com, Feb. 25, 1999
"Visit our site, register and get frequent browsing points good toward valuable prizes!" The Go Network is considering it.
Intuit intends to sell entire stake in Excite
Bloomberg, Feb. 25, 1999
Intuit plans to sell its 10 percent stake in Excite, which could make the company $500 million.
AltaVista Adds Another Piece
Internet World, Feb. 22, 1999
Details about Compaq purchase of Zip2, which specializes in creating local portals for media partners such as newspapers. Compaq hopes the purchase will help its e-commerce goals for AltaVista.
Excite serving porn ads on "kid-safe" searches
News.com, Feb. 17, 1999
Porn ads were appearing at Excite's Magellan service, even when a kid-safe search mode was selected.
Below are sponsor messages that ran in this month's issue of the Search Engine Report, which may be of interest to Search Engine Update readers.
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