Some exciting news for the web researcher to begin the year.
GuruNet, the very useful and formerly subscription-based ready-reference web database and client app, full of fast facts and other information from over 100 reference sources, has launched a new site: Answers.com and is now available for free.
That's right, the complete database, is now accessible via a web interface or a "1-click" client app (Windows or Mac), is available at no charge. Here's a directory of the sources available from Answers.com.
GuruNet plans to earn revenue via keyword-based ads. The company is currently talking with several companies to provide the advertising.
Answers.com is formally a service from GuruNet. In October 2004, GuruNet went public and is now trading on the American Stock Exchange. GuruNet also provides reference content to other sites, including a9.
Walt Mossberg's 2003 WSJ review of the GuruNet service offers some excellent points about how this service is different as compared to what you find with general-purpose web engines.
+ First of all, in most cases Google doesn't actually provide you an answer, just a list of links to Web pages where information might be found.
+ Second, you're doing all this in a general, undifferentiated piece of software called a Web browser that isn't designed to help you drill down into information.
+ Third, neither the browser nor Google gives you a good sense of the credibility of the sources that turn up, just their popularity.
Since Mossberg wrote the review it's worth noting that the general web engines are also beginning to focus on answers (for certain types of queries) instead of just links offering shortcuts and other tools. I have examples of some of what's available in this blog post.
If you've never used this excellent search tool, make sure to check it out. It's more than worthy of your attention.