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Intelliseek has launched a new version its ProFusion meta search site that also combines easier access to "invisible web" information. The combination of comprehensive web search results combined with the ability to target topic-specific search resources make the developing service one of great appeal to searchers.
After certain types of searches -- especially those involving medical terms, company names, geographical locations, celebrities and other data that ProFusion believes may available in "invisible web" areas -- you'll see the page topped with a "search assistant." This is a person holding a magnifying glass, with the words "ProFusion Recommends" above. Next to the person are links designed to route you into search results from topic-specific or "vertical" search services.
For instance, if you search for "pregnancy," you'll see suggestions such as "Health Tips: Try your search for pregnancy within Health Tips." Selecting this link would bring up a new set of search results. These come from specialty sites that deal with health issues, such as HealthAnswers.com, DrKoop.com, Medline Plus and the American Medical Association.
Some information at these sites might not be available to ordinary search engines, because it comes out of databases and is only retrieved if you used a special search form when visiting the sites. Hence the concept of "invisible web." This is information that might not be visible to an ordinary search engine. However, ProFusion is specifically designed to pass along your automatically query to appropriate invisible web resources and find the information that might otherwise be missed.
In addition to routing you toward invisible web resources, ProFusion also continues to offer more ordinary search listings. For instance, the results page will often begin with any matching "Web Guides" information, which are category lists from LookSmart's human editors. For example, select the "Pregnancy, Birth and Newborns" link after a search for "pregnancy," and you'll have access to resources on that topic, which have all been reviewed.
The "Web Search Engines" section presents search results pulled back from major search engines from across the web, including AltaVista, MSN Search and Yahoo. Google is not included.
Unfortunately, there is no way to control exactly which services are queried when doing an ordinary search. Instead, if you want this control, you must use the advanced search page (use the link below the search box on the home page). The settings you choose on the advanced search page will be remembered, if you always start from it. But if you do so, you lose the search assistant suggestions to invisible web content and the Web Guide links.
Every listing in the results is followed by a "page alert" link. Select this link, and you'll be notified each week of any changes to the page. Similarly, the small "Set Search Alerts" link at the top right of the Web Search Engines portion of the results page will rerun your search each week and notify you via email if there are new or different results.
ProFusion's automatic suggestions of invisible web resources are good, but I think the real power lies in browsing topics from its home page. That's because the suggestion list at ProFusion is still growing, so I think you could miss out on resources you'd more likely find if you drill down the category levels.
For example, say you want historical information on electrical consumption in California, which has been plagued by brownouts and shortages over the past year. If I search for that -- "historical information on electrical consumption in California" -- Profusion comes back with no search assistants pointing me toward invisible web resources. However, if browse from the home page into "Government," then I discover the option to search against invisible web resources with information about commerce, US state and local government information and energy resources. All of these sound promising.
Promising, yes -- successful, no. As it turns out, the results for that query were very poor. In contrast, the Web Search results that ProFusion found for the query were excellent, bringing up a very good document from the California Department of Energy. This just goes to show ordinary search engines can and still do bring back plenty of good information, despite concerns that they may miss invisible web content.
This isn't to knock the work Profusion has done. There are great applications for invisible web searching, and as Profusion develops over time, its suggestions within the ordinary search results should improve.
In the meantime, do consider browsing topics from the home page, if your ordinary results don't seem to work. The ability to hit patent databases, music reviews, legal resources and other great specialty sources can all be found. Not only can you locate them, which was always possible through Intelliseek's InvisibleWeb.com web site, but you can also search against several of them in a category at the same time.
It would be nice if it were possible to search for matching invisible web categories more easily from ProFusion. For example, search for "census" at InvisibileWeb.com, and you are shown multiple resources related to the term. At ProFusion, you have to search for "census," then scroll to the bottom of the results page and go through the extra step of selecting the "Invisible Web Sites" link at the bottom of the page. Even this fails to show you which invisible web sites match the query. Instead, it just runs your query against whatever invisible web sites ProFusion considers relevant.
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The site is expected to lose its beta status in the next six weeks or so and replace the existing ProFusion service, below.
The older version of ProFusion remains live but offers only meta searching abilities.
Intelliseek's existing catalog of invisible web resources, but it doesn't integrate meta search, as does the ProFusion beta.
BrightPlanet's catalog of invisible web or deep web resources.
I can search the 'invisible Web.' Here's how you can, too
ZDNet, Feb. 8, 2001
Another review of the new ProFusion service.
Search Links: Invisible Web
Further resources and information about the invisible web.