AlltheWeb. com has always been the technology showcase site for FAST Search and Transfer. With this redesign, the search engine has stripped away most of the FAST corporate signage, and now sports a clean, elegant interface that unabashedly draws on the "best practices" pioneered by Google, AltaVista, and other major search engines.
"There is no reason to reinvent the wheel," said Peter Bauert, Director of Business Development for FAST. "Having said that, there's no way you can compete on look and feel alone."
AlltheWeb's new features are both cosmetic, and to a degree, structural.
The new interface is cleaner. Results are now presented in a single column format. The layout features up to three sponsored links at the top of the result page, followed my news headlines, if the query is news related.
Banner ads have been removed, as has the "click here to start" link.
The default language for search results is now automatically determined by looking at your browser's IP address and determining the location of your ISP. You can override the default, selecting up to eight default languages.
More subtly, query rewriting has been moved to the top of the page. AlltheWeb automatically rewrites ambagious queries for better results. For example, quotation marks are added to natural phrases to force a phrase match.
Perhaps the most significant change is an enhancement to the advanced search form. Full Boolean searching is now supported, with operators AND, OR, and ANDNOT. The OR operator is new -- previously, AlltheWeb did an OR operation for all terms bracketed within parenthesis. Somewhat confusingly, parenthesis are still used for OR with simple search, but are used for true nesting in advanced search with any Boolean operators.
The new RANK operator boosts the presence of a search term, reordering the result set with the indicated terms listed higher up.
Results for the advanced search page no longer include the advanced search form at the bottom of the page. Instead, there's a link to "rerun advanced search" next to the query form that returns you to the advanced search form itself.
Customization options have also been enhanced. If you like AlltheWeb's Boolean search capabilities, you can use the "set search type" option to include a drop-down menu on the main AlltheWeb home page that lets you use basic Boolean operators without having to go to the advanced search page.
Also new is a "URL investigator." Type a complete URL into the search form, and your results shift format to specific information about the website using the URL.
Particularly useful for website optimizers, these results contain the number of external links that point to the site, and the number of links that contain the url body itself (e.g. "searchenginewatch").
URL investigator results also indicate the number of pages AlltheWeb has indexed from the site, ownership information, and a link to archived copies of the site courtesy of the Internet Archives Wayback Machine.
Be sure to check out the new "search tools." Among other things, these tools allow you to do things like set your "sidebar" search option to default to AlltheWeb. This works not only for Internet Explorer, but also Netscape and Opera browsers as well.
Search tools also has an option that allows you to create a search button that allows you to highlight text on a web page and use this highlighted text as your query. Finally, you can also implement keyword search in your browser address window. This feature should especially appeal to Google Toolbar users, as a quick "backdoor" means of running a search on AlltheWeb without calling up its homepage.
Coming hard on the heels of last week's purchase of AlltheWeb by Overture, it's fair to ask whether this change has been prompted by AlltheWeb's new owner, to make the search engine more Google-like.
Absolutely not, says Tim Mayer, FAST's vice president web search. The changes to AlltheWeb have been in the works for quite some time, and the roll-out has nothing to do with the impending acquisition. Given SEC rules severely restricting corporate communications in the period before pending acquisitions, this sounds both believable and credible.
Which is good news for searchers, demonstrating an ongoing commitment on the part of AlltheWeb to improving its web search capabilities. Further, once the Overture acquisition is complete, AlltheWeb should receive more resources to help it continue to develop and grow, according to Mayer.
"We want to be a site that search enthusiasts like to search," said Mayer.
Hack HotBot and Win a Prize
HotBot has announced a contest for designers to create "skins" to customize the look at feel of the search engine's interface. The company plans to award a projection TV system to the winner.
Full details and submission rules are available at the link below.
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