THE SEARCH ENGINE REPORT
3/3/97 - Number 4
================ About The Report ================
The Search Engine Report is the email companion to "A Webmaster's Guide to Search Engines," http://calafia.com/webmasters/. It keeps you informed of changes to the site and general search engine news useful to web developers. Feel free to pass on this newsletter to others.
================= Introductory Note =================
Some of you got two or three copies of the last report. My apologies. With luck, the next Search Engine Report will go out via Majordomo, eliminating these problems and allowing subscribers to add, unsubscribe or confirm subscriptions on their own. I expect to have the latest version installed soon. Any Majordomo gurus out there who want to lend a hand?
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================== Search Engine News ==================
Changes for Netscape's NetSearch Page?
In February, Netscape began surveying those using its NetSearch Page about their likes and dislikes. This no doubt foreshadows coming changes, probably which will occur in April. That's because the five top search engines have placement contracts expiring that month.
What's in store for this all-important page? A look at the survey reveals some of the ideas being considered:
+ Ability to choose a default search engine or directory, so that it appears at top of page and is ready to use each time you visit
+ Instructions on how to use each search engine or directory
+ Guide to improving searches
+ Reviews of each search engine and directory
+ "Chat" sessions in which users of Netscape's Net Search page share their searching experiences
Meanwhile, Netscape has begun running additional ads "below the fold," as it were. A second banner ad touts directories such as LookSmart and NetGuide Live, while a thumbnail ad mostly features smaller or topical directories such as Four11. See the ads (sorry, the survey is gone) at:
Excite Gets Face-Lift, Touts NewsTracker
Excite's formerly-cluttered home page got a new look in February. It's more streamlined, with the page clearly divided into "Search The Web," "Search Reviews" and "Search News" areas.
Excite has also expanded its news search abilities with NewsTracker. It allows searches of more than 300 publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to the New York Times, and you can store search terms for easy re-use.
I use a variety of these news clipping services, and NewsTracker definitely has a lot to offer. I found it a great way to scan across various online publications to see if there are new articles of interest.
WebCrawler Special Features
WebCrawler offers a number of special features that may get overlooked.
The WebCrawler Search Ticker is a fascinating way to watch what people are searching for. It can be depressing watching all the X-rated or misspelled terms go by, but the occasional "naval history" or "swans waterfowl new england" request makes you feel there is intelligence lurking somewhere on the net.
WebCrawler also offers its look at the most popular documents on the web via the WebCrawler 100. No surprise, Netscape comes on top with over 40,000 servers linking to it that are known to WebCrawler's index. There are also interesting surprises, such as The Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Free Speech coming in at fourth place. See how the web is "voting" through links.
Alta Vista debuts LiveTopics
In mid-February, Alta Vista rolled out its LiveTopics feature. LiveTopics offers alternative words to what you are searching for. For example, you can do a search for "search engines." By using LiveTopics, you can then see words that Alta Vista has determined are related to your search, such as "directories," "lycos" and "guides." You can then add these words to expand your search or exclude them to narrow your focus.
To try the service, visit Alta Vista and do a search. Above your results will be options. Clicking on Visual LiveTopics brings up a Java-based list of words or a graphical word-relationship map.
go2net, an online content provider, has acquired the rights to MetaCrawler. MetaCrawler sends a search request to multiple search engines to provide a common-list of results. go2net has maintained its own multiple-engine search service but will now transition MetaCrawler into its services. MetaCrawler will be hosted on go2net's hardware beginning this week but continue to have the same URL and look and feel. In time, it will be integrated into the go2net domain.
CMP buys metasearch site
In mid-Feb, CMP Media Inc. has acquired South Beach, Fla.-based All4One Search Machine, a metasearch Internet site that facilitates Net-based searches by allowing users seeking information to employ four major search engines at once. The company publishes magazines such as NetGuide and online content, such as CMP TechWeb.
Semio's Twist On Searching
Semio got press earlier in mid-February for its SemioMap product, designed primarily to index Intranets. The company showcases its product online with a 2 to 3 million page index of the web. There are no current plans to turn this into a serious competitor against the major search engines.
Entering a search query brings up a "map," with the term or terms in the middle of the map and links to other terms radiating outward. This lets you move toward a related topic of interest, until you've narrowed in on what you want. At that point, you click a button to see actual web pages that map.
It's fun to play with, but it may not be for everyone. I didn't find it a better way to perform searches, but others may love this twist on the searching game.
Crawling woes for AOL-hosted sites
Apparently, being properly indexed can be difficult for those using free pages provided by America Online. Sites may have one of two root URLs, such as http://users.aol.com/username/ or http://members.aol.com/username. Reports are that sites submitted under one name would be tossed out by spiders crawling and using the other name. That really shouldn't be problem, because if either address works, most engines will find the valid page and keep it. A bigger problem was that America Online shuts down the hosting server occasionally at night, which can be a big problem if a spider comes to check on a page and finds it can't get through.
I've not put any of this to the test, so if you are an AOL member, feel free to let me know if you've encountered the above problems.
============ Site Changes ============
New benefits have been introduced for subscribers. Those who sign up now gain access to a downloadable version of the site and receive the Search Engine Update, a twice-monthly summary of search engine news. This is in addition to a listing on the honor roll page. Existing subscribers will be sent information this week regarding these benefits.
Portions of the site can now also be licensed for use., and there is a new, inexpensive priority email question service for search engine-related queries. Links to all these options can be found at:
A page devoted to what people are searching for has been added. Along with WebCrawler, it also has links to Magellan and Yahoo search term lists.
The Search Engines Features chart has been updated to reflect engines that support frames and image maps. A major update will take place in April.
Finally, severe network congestion near Salt Lake City (where the guide is hosted) is causing occasional delays in reaching the site. Over 4,000 web sites are affected by this. Providers are working to solve the problem in a week or so. If you encounter problems, please return to try the site at a different time. My apologies for this inconvenience.
================ Search Engine Gains and Losses ================
There has been only one major review since the last newsletter. The Washington Post gave a plus to Infoseek, had good comments about Alta Vista and HotBot, and was so-so regarding Excite and Lycos. Details on the Strategic Alliance chart. The chart now also lists how each engine places on the WebCrawler 100.
========= Thanks To =========
Interesting feedback and new tips this month came from:
+ Norma Brandsberg
========= End Notes =========
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This newsletter is Copyright (c) Danny Sullivan, Calafia Consulting.
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