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Infoseek Adds New Search Features

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Infoseek Adds New Search Features

From The Search Engine Report
June 2, 1999

Infoseek added a "Similar Searches" feature and search term highlighting to its service in May, as well as making changes to speed up the display of search results. The size of the Infoseek index has also been increased.

Similar Searches displays popular queries that are related to your original search. For instance, if you search for "travel," you would be shown similar searches such as "travel agent" and "discount travel." These similar searches appear on the search results page, just below the search box. They are displayed as links, so that clicking on any similar search will rerun your query using those words.

Many people search too broadly, and this feature is a great way to narrow in on what you may be looking for. Nor is Infoseek alone in offering it. AltaVista debuted its "Related Searches" feature back in December, and HotBot recently added its own feature. Excite has long offered a related keywords feature, but it has recently been enhancing this with actual search phrases. See the Search Assistance page below for an illustrated guide to how the similar searches feature works at each service.

Infoseek has also introduced search term highlighting, a first for any of the major services. Now when you do a search, the words you searched for will be highlighted in the titles and descriptions of pages listed in the search results. This is designed to make it easier to spot pages of interest by focusing your attention on where your search terms occur.

There's been a mixed reaction to the highlighting, with some people hating it but others loving it, according to Infoseek. "Overall, we think it's a win," said Jennifer Mullin, Director of Search and Navigation. "They can find things faster, and it calls their attention to it."

If you're one of those that hates the new highlighting, Mullin said that Infoseek is considering making this an optional feature that can be switched off. Similarly, Infoseek may also allow you to choose a preferred color to use for highlighting, in the future.

Behind the scenes, Infoseek has increased the size of its index from 50 million to 75 million web pages. That still leaves it behind services such as Northern Light, AltaVista and Inktomi, which index in excess of 100 million pages. But the increase does put Infoseek well past rivals Excite and Lycos, which remain in the 50 million page range.

Why the increase? It's a mix of keeping up with the growth of the web and keeping up with Infoseek's rivals.

"Unfortunately, it's a huge marketing perception thing, that bigger is better," said Mullin. "But we also we feel the web itself is growing faster." she explained. Mullin said that Infoseek plans further size increases, but it will also stay focused on keeping the quality of results its first priority.

Infoseek also introduced a number of design changes, with faster results being what it is promoting the most. Removing excess images from the results page means that it should load in about five seconds, for those using a 33.6K modem connection, compared to about eight seconds previously.

The home page has also been reworked to be faster, and it offers the ability to directly log-in to a personalized home page. You'll also notice that Infoseek's branding has now been entirely replaced with that of its Go Network, even if you go to the infoseek.go.com site, as opposed to www.go.com. Previously, going to infoseek.go.com still invoked the Infoseek logo.

What this means is that, at least from Infoseek's point of view, the Infoseek site no longer exists. It has now been replaced by the Go Network site. "We want to be crystal clear that GO Network is the foremost consumer portal brand we intend to invest in," said Infoseek President Harry Motro, in a press release on the brand changeover.

While Infoseek "the site" is gone, Infoseek "the brand" remains in use to identify the technology powering the Go Network's search functionality. Infoseek also remains the name of the company that, with Disney, jointly owns the Go Network.

I know this may sound like a lot of marketing mumbo-jumbo, but it's important to understand mainly because you're going to be hearing many more references to Go in the future and less to Infoseek. Just think of Go as the new name for the Infoseek site, and you'll avoid confusion. In future articles, I'll also begin referring to Go rather than Infoseek, when discussing the site.

Aside from cosmetics, there have been some important functional design changes. One of these is the ability to hide "Matching Topics" from the search results page. By default, Infoseek will first show relevant topics from its human-compiled directory, then show matching web page results, in response to a search. If you don't like seeing the topic information, just click on the small green button to the extreme right of the reverse bar that says "Matching Topics." That removes them until you click on the button at a future date to restore them.

The ability to search within a set of results also remains, but now you must choose this option by selecting the small "Search within results" option just above the search box on the results page, rather than below it.

Infoseek has also changed the name of its advanced search page to "Search Options" on its home page, to encourage more use. "People were kind of intimidated by the word advanced," Mullin said. Now Infoseek says usage has increased from about three percent to five percent. Other search engines have also reported increase usage when they've adopted more user-friendly names for their advanced search pages.

The Search Options link appears just below the search box, on the home page. You'll also find the link to GOguardian, Infoseek's filtered search option, in the same place. Make use of this if you have the need to filter results when searching with children.

Finally, just before the newsletter went out, Infoseek announced that it would be adding RealNames information to its search results. The implementation is likely to be similar to that at AltaVista, and Infoseek says to expect seeing RealNames appear around September.

Infoseek/Go
http://www.go.com/

About The Go Redesign
http://www.go.com/GoHome/modules/about_new_design.html

Learn more about the home page design changes at Go and how they relate to personalization.

Search Assistance Features
http://searchenginewatch.com/facts/assistance.html

Learn how similar searches and other features work at various search engines.


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