AltaVista Offers "Shortcuts" to the Invisible Web

AltaVista is making it easier for searchers to delve into reaches of the Invisible web, providing "shortcuts" that point to high-quality deep web resources that other search engines typically can't see.

Shortcuts are direct links to web resources that are difficult or impossible for many search engines to crawl and index. While other engines include similar links for some types of information -- such as Yahoo maps, for example -- the fact that AltaVista is incorporating a variety of links to these types of information sources is a notable step forward in revealing portions the Invisible web.

"We have partnered with key resource providers and have built specialized indices to provide users with authoritative and fresh information that reaches beyond far conventional Web search," said Jim Barnett, CEO, AltaVista.

Some shortcuts point to real-time information, such as stock quotes and local weather. Others point to information stored in web-accessible databases, such as city guides, maps and directions, or telephone directory information from online white and yellow page services.

Shortcuts are integrated directly into the first web search results page. They're beneath the paid placement advertising links AltaVista euphemistically labels "products and services," but appear at the top of the list of computed search results that are identified by the number of pages found.

"What we're focused on here is very relevant results, areas that we may not have indexed, such as the invisible web," said Chris Kermoian, director search services and web marketing services for AltaVista. "Instead of trying to take these pages and keep them in a web index we send them to other pages."

Kermoian says that while a few shortcuts point to resources provided by AltaVista business partners, most have been selected for the quality of information they offer, without commercial consideration. Shortcuts "aren't meant as an ad unit -- they're meant as a way of putting users in touch with relevant information," he said.

A good way to test shortcuts is to do a search using the name of your favorite large city. On the result page, look for the small blue arrow icons. The arrows highlight shortcuts to key information on that city, including maps, directions, local resources, city guides, weather, yellow pages and more. "It's actually surprising how many people type in a city name to start their search," said Kermoian.

Shortcuts that will be particularly useful over the next couple of weeks point to real-time resources on the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. These shortcuts point to news and images from a variety of sources, as well as schedules and statistics Winter Olympic events. Other Olympic shortcuts point to multimedia files and other sources documenting the medal ceremonies.

AltaVista plans to expand its offerings of shortcuts in the near future, potentially opening up even more of the Invisible web to searchers. "It's a significant effort for us," said Kermoian. "You'll see a lot more of this coming out as we integrate different sources. We've got a fairly aggressive roadmap."

AltaVista Shortcuts
An overview that describes the Shortcuts offered by AltaVista, with screen shots and "cheat sheets" with examples showing what you'll get for specific types of queries.

Navigating the Invisible Web
A brief overview of the Invisible Web.

Google in a Box

Google is introducing its new search "appliance" today, a pizza-box size unit that contains the full Google search functionality for internal networks and intranets. Designed to compete head-to-head with site search tools offered by industry titans such as Verity and Inktomi, the Google appliance differs in that it's an integrated hardware/software product that needs comparatively little configuration to put into action.

Google is offering two versions of the search appliance: The GB-1001, a single Linux-based machine that's very similar to one of the thousands of computers in Google's data centers, and the GB-8008, essentially a rack of eight GB-1001s.

The GB-1001 is designed for departments or small to medium sized companies, capable of indexing 150,000 documents. It's priced at $20,000, which includes hardware and two years of updates and support, after which the purchaser owns the unit.

The GB-8008 is designed for large enterprises and centralized services, and can handle millions of documents. The GB-8008 costs $200,000 for a two year support and upgrade contract.

Search tools maven Avi Rappoport will be taking a detailed look at the Google search appliance in an upcoming issue of SearchDay.

At press time, there was no official URL for the Google appliance -- watch the home page for a link for more information.


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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.