THE SEARCH ENGINE REPORT
Oct. 6, 1997 - Number 11
About The Report
The Search Engine Report is the email companion to Search Engine Watch, http://searchenginewatch.com/. It keeps you informed of changes to the site and general search engine.
The report has over 10,000 subscribers. High-speed email list hosting services are provided by SparkNET, http://www.SparkLIST.com/. You may pass this newsletter on to others, as long as it is sent in its entirety.
Please note that long URLs may break into two lines in some mail readers. Please cut and paste, should this occur.
The mailing list is now hosted on a new server. This means there are slightly different commands you need to use to subscribe or unsubscribe. You'll find these listed at the bottom of this email.
I've been busy updating the site and adding a number of new pages. Whew! My wife misses me. Here's a section-by-section summary. Individual pages can be found linked from the main section URLs listed.
Search Engine Facts & Fun
A new sub-section on regional editions, sometimes called international editions, is now online. In it, you'll find a country-by-country guide to the editions each major search engine offers. There is also an overview of how the editions are created, and detailed pages for each of the major search engines. Important regional search engines are also listed.
Metacrawlers and specialty search engines now have their own pages. Previously, these were on the Other Search Engines page, which is now specifically focused on important but not-quite major global search engines and directories.
Another sub-section called Search Tips has been created. I've assembled excerpts from past Search Engine Reports that provide tips on using the search engines better. Much of this material was previously buried in the archive editions. Hopefully, it will be easier to find now.
A new page called Sprechen Sie Search Engine has been created. It tells you how to say "search engines" in various languages. Just the thing for those important international conferences.
The Yahoo Special Report was also posted on Sept. 8. It covers why submissions are expected to continue to take several weeks or longer, although Yahoo has made some procedural changes since the report was posted. The submission survey results are also within the report, along with more information.
Search Engine Status Reports
The Search Engine Alliances Chart has now been broken into two pages. The alliances chart continues, and it remains focused on important partnerships or ratings that drive traffic.
Pages devoted to Media Metrix and RelevantKnowledge ratings have also been created. These provide more in-depth information that what is summarized on the chart. The Media Metrix page has current results and a past trend chart. The RelevantKnowledge page has current results, plus a comparison against Media Metrix. It's interesting to see how close the ratings are, in terms of proportion.
A new Search Engine Reviews Chart has the summary of review scores previously on the alliances chart. I've also color-coded the chart, so that you can (hopefully) see at a glance which search engines are doing well, and not so well.
All the Search Engine EKGs have been updated through Aug. 31, and I expect to have September data up this month. The customer service response time chart has also been updated with September data.
Search Engine Resources
Most of the pages have been updated with some new links, and there are two new pages.
Search Engines and Legal Issues has a few links relating to meta tag copyright issues and the recent patent announcements. Expect this page to grow.
The Search Engine Retail Chart just shows what my friends know. If I can put data into a chart format, I will. Here you'll see the major partnerships each search engines has with online retailers, such as booksellers. Who's with Amazon and who's with Barnes & Noble? This chart tells you, with dates in some cases.
Search Engine Report Archives
For some time, I've been meaning to integrate material from some recent reports into the site. I'm now mostly caught up, but it also made sense to break apart the reports into individual articles. These can now be found on the archive page, along with the most current issue.
Some minor design changes should make it a bit easier to find information, and I've finally fixed the drop-down navigational boxes to work with Internet Explorer 3 -- just in time for the launch of IE4!
The subscription sign-up form has also gone high-tech. There's now a secure form for credit card orders, and all the confirmation material and password information is automatically sent within a few minutes.
As always, please consider supporting the site by becoming a subscriber. You help ensure that quality information about search engines continues to be provided. Plus, you get some extra benefits such as a more frequent newsletter and some exclusive content not kept on the regular site. To sign-up, visit:
Search Engine News
HotBot Relaunches, Expands Search Services
HotBot unveiled a new look last week, featuring a redesigned home page, new specialty search services and debuting partnerships with a variety on online retailers.
HotBot has always had the most graphical search engine interfaces, designed to help users tap into the great degree of control that HotBot allows over searching the web. But many users have overlooked that control, which was hidden behind "tabs" that used to run down the left-hand side of the home page.
HotBot's new home page puts more of the power options before users, while a new SuperSearch page exposes the full-range of features. The page can be found by clicking on the SuperSearch graphic on the home page, just below the description control box.
"The SuperSearch page aggregates all of the search features into one place," said Mindy Rosenbaum, General Manager for Search Services. "One of the common feedback responses that we've gotten is that people like all of the search features, but they don't always find them."
These type of options can be used to have search engines measure the web in ways some people never consider. For example, I went to the SuperSearch page, checked one of the media type boxes and then searched with nothing in the search box to get the number of pages using each type of media:
VB Script: 13,942
Divide those numbers by 55 million web pages, and you have a rough approximation of what percent of web pages use each type of media. GIF images are on 66% of pages; Java on 0.7%, ActiveX on .08%. There are reasons the numbers aren't 100% accurate, but the do provide some interesting ballpark measurements.
AltaVista is roughly equal to HotBot for this type of control and filtering, but only HotBot provides a comprehensive point-and-click interface. It may be imposing for some users, but others will appreciate the attempt to save them from learning commands such as AND, TITLE: and other operators.
The search engines have been looking for ways to distinguish themselves from each other. Excite, for example, has been transforming itself into an online service, with search at its center. AltaVista continues to focus on simple, web page searching.
HotBot's relaunch aims it toward being a center for all things searchable. With the help of partners, it has burst past being limited only to web and newsgroup searching. Specialty searches have been added to the service.
Some have already existed, such as news searching with NewsBot, while others are new, such as domain searching. But all of the specialty searches are now prominently featured on the home page and ever-present through the service.
"We very consciously have integrated them into the entire site," Rosenbaum said "The feedback we were hearing from users was that when they went to some of the other services [offering specialty searches”, they get easily lost."
All the search services are listed down the right-hand side of HotBot's pages. One can do a news search, then easily click to a domain search or a web search. Only the Stock Search service lacks this consistency.
The most interesting of the new services is probably domain name searching. You can enter a word, then search for domains containing the word or for domains owned by companies with the word in their name. Don't do multiple word searches -- only the first word will actually be used.
For example, a search for "newport" brings up both bankofnewport.com and nbpd.org, owned by the Newport Beach Police Department (which once broke up a party I was having, but that's another story).
Small checkmarks show which domains are active, and clicking on an active domain takes you to the actual web site.
Unfortunately, the service does not provide the additional information which is provided by doing a whois search, such as company phone numbers, administrator names and other data. That would be nice. And at the moment, domain searching is restricted to .com, .net and .edu domains. Other domains are promised soon.
Domain searching is provided to HotBot by WebSitez, which operates a standalone service at http://www.websitez.com. It's identical to the HotBot service.
The same people also produce the Filez shareware search engine, http://www.filez.com. That search engine is also integrated into HotBot, allowing HotBot users to search through 75 million shareware files.
Another partner, Forum One, provides HotBot users with the ability to search over 100,000 web-based discussion forums. These aren't the same as newsgroups. These are discussion areas run on the web, using software such as HyperNews or WWWBoard.
Excite also offers discussion searching using Forum One, but it's buried within the Excite People & Chat Channel. And while Forum One operates a standalone service at http://www.forumone.com/, the addition to HotBot should bring this type of searching to the attention of many more people.
HotBot's news search service also gets much more prominence. NewsBot indexes 200 news sites daily, some even more often. The index is updated every six hours, providing extremely fresh, news-related content. It's only real rival is Excite's NewsTracker service, http://nt.excite.com/. Both are excellent ways to search for breaking news.
HotBot also offers yellow page searching, white page searching, stock searching and assorted other services, in addition to those described above.
HotBot joins the rush toward online retailing with a variety of new partnerships. Links along the right-hand side of the page prominently feature merchants such as Barnes & Noble and 1-800-Flowers. Clicking takes you to either the merchant's site or to particular specials on offer to HotBot users.
Overall, the changes are quite dramatic, in terms of HotBot's previous incarnation. While the other search engines have added on all sorts of additional features, HotBot and AltaVista have more-or-less stuck with focusing on pure web searching.
Now HotBot has made a serious move beyond this. Those who've loved HotBot for its interface, its results or perhaps even its neon-bright color scheme may find the new services fulfilling their growing needs. Meanwhile, the new additions position the service to stay competitive with its rivals, while still keeping it focused on the core product of search.
Yahoo Root URL Rumor False
It has been going around recently that Yahoo is only accepting root URL submissions, such as http://www.mysite.com/, as opposed to http://www.hostingcompany.com/mysite/mywebpage.htm.
This is not the case. Yahoo continues to accept submissions, regardless of whether a site is hosted under its own root domain or is hosted within someone else's domain.
"This rumor is completely false, and we're not sure how it started. There has been no change regarding what URLs we accept; we certainly don't restrict submissions to root URLs," said Srinija Srinivasan, Chief Ontological Yahoo, who oversees the listing process.
Yahoo does have a general policy of not listing subsections of a website, unless there is a substantial reason for doing so. For example, a company might have a web site about surfing, with a section about surfboards, a section about good beaches, and a section about surfing clothing. The site might be organized as so:
The site owner may want to submit the entire site as well as each section under its own listing, but chances are, Yahoo will only process the root URL submission. The reason is that the sections are probably not substantial enough to stand on their own.
However, the situation above is completely different when the subsections are completely different sites hosted under the same domain. This happens often with free web space, where different people have similar addresses, such as:
In this case, even though the addresses are similar, the sites themselves are substantially different. John21's site has nothing to do with Mary1234 or Thuan56's sites. Each stand stands on its own, and so Yahoo will consider each for a listing.
Whether a listing is accepted is another story. Listings may not be accepted because a site is either not substantial enough or simply because Yahoo's staff did not have time to review it. Reasons for this are covered in Search Engine Watch's Yahoo Special Report.
Yahoo has also improved its submission process, in hopes of making things much clearer. Many of the changes came after the special report noted problems with the process. Thanks to those who participated in the survey, which is part of the report. Your comments probably helped spur Yahoo on.
And kudos to Yahoo for making the changes. Srinivasan said that they've received positive feedback that the changes have helped make things easier. Now if only the submissions were processed faster....
Yahoo Special Report
Lycos Integrates Lycos Pro Technology Into Main Service
In June, Lycos introduced Lycos Pro, a completely separate search engine using new crawling technology and a completely different searching algorithm than its main Lycos service.
Now the technology behind Lycos Pro has been integrated into the main Lycos service. Lycos announced the change on Sept. 16.
Lycos looks much the same on the surface, but the results it yields, and the type of searches it allows, are different than in the past. Meanwhile, Lycos Pro continues to operate, as does Lycos Pro with Java Power Panel. There are distinct things that can be done with each service, as described below.
Most people will continue to use the Lycos service, which is aimed at those with basic searching needs. The change to using Lycos Pro technology will be noticeable to these people in two main ways.
First, the relevancy of results will probably seem improved than in the past. When Lycos Pro launched, I found it provided better results than Lycos powered by its old technology. Relevancy is subjective, so I can't say everyone will agree. But I strongly suspect that those using Lycos now will find the new technology improves the results returned.
Second, Lycos now offers phrase searching. Simply enclose your search words with quotes, to perform a phrase search.
"Lycos never had phrase searching, and that was one of the places where we always got dinged. Now, I would put our phrase searching up against anyone," said David Burns, Director of Product Marketing.
The main difference in using Lycos Pro is the ability to use proximity commands. With Lycos Pro, one can specify that two terms should be within a certain number of words of each other, or that one term should appear before another, or more.
Lycos Pro also offers the ability to nest commands, such as:
(hilliary OR bill) AND clinton
which means, "find documents with the word 'clinton' and either 'hilliary' or 'bill' in them."
On a technical note, Lycos Pro uses a separate catalog than the main Lycos service. Thus, there is a small chance that pages in Lycos many not appear in Lycos Pro, and vice versa. However, spot checks found identical top ten results for a variety of searches, showing that the two catalogs are very similar.
Lycos Pro With Java Power Panel
This is the Lycos Pro service with the ability to modify how it ranks and searches for pages. You can do everything possible with the Lycos Pro service. However, sliding controls lets users set the emphasis of how pages are ranked in six major areas, such as appearing in the title or appearing early in the text.
Those who want to know more and learn how the panel should read the previous article on Lycos Pro, listed below.
The home page has also been tightened to make it load faster and to better emphasize the Web Guides, subject-oriented areas that integrate search features, selected directory links, news articles and other content.
Lycos Press Release
Lycos, Sept. 16, 1997
Lycos Pro Commands
Lycos Launches Lycos Pro
Search Engine Report, July 2, 1997
WebCrawler Gets Channeled
Excite extended the channel organization introduced on the Excite search service earlier this year to WebCrawler. The change was announced Sept. 15.
WebCrawler still looks like a distinct service -- it hasn't been turned into Excite. However, its associated topical directory has now been expanded with additional information. WebCrawler also features online service additions pioneered with Excite, such as free email, instant messaging applications, chat and bulletin boards.
The main change has been to add the WebCrawler logo to the existing Excite features and add links to them throughout WebCrawler. In this way, the WebCrawler identity is maintained without having to create completely separate features.
WebCrawler has 15 channels: Arts & Books, Auto, Careers & Education, Computers & Internet, Entertainment, Games, Health & Fitness, Home & Family, Reference, News, Personal Finance, Relationships, People & Chat, Sports & Recreation and Travel.
In addition, users can use WebCrawler's My Page to have customized news stories, stock quotes, sports scores, weather forecasts and more.
"Through the introduction of community-building tools such as chat, instant messaging and email, WebCrawler paves the road for interaction among its users and connects them with a larger community of Excite.com and WebCrawler users," said Adam Hertz, general manager, WebCrawler.
New Search Engine Ratings Available
Those starved for good data on how the search engines compare against each other will be pleased to learn that two sources of information are now available.
Media Metrix has resumed its public posting of web site ratings. You can see where the search engines stand within the top ten of all web sites, along with interesting results from various categories, such as top travel sites. The latest results show that AltaVista has moved into the number five position formerly held by WebCrawler.
Newcomer RelevantKnowledge has released its first data, a top 20 chart of web sites, in terms of audience share. As with Media Metrix, Yahoo stands well above the rest. But Infoseek squeaks past Excite to be ranked number two. Infoseek is ranked number three with Media Metrix.
Two new pages within Search Engine Watch provide more details. The Media Metrix page has current results and a past trend chart. The RelevantKnowledge Page has current results, plus a comparison against Media Metrix. It's interesting to see how close both services ratings are, in terms of proportion.
Finally, a recent article from WebWeek provides some nice information on the latest battle to rate the web. Another good article from AdAge touches on some similar issues, with a particular focus on the need to publicly release data.
Media Metrix Search Engine Ratings
RelevantKnowledge Search Engine Ratings
The Battle To Be Web Ratings King
WebWeek, Sept. 15, 1997
Research firms respond to need for more data
AdAge, Sept. 8, 1997
Media Metrix July 97 Ratings
RelevantKnowledge Aug. 97 Ratings
RelevantKnowledge, Sept. 15, 1997
Infoseek Claims No. 2 Slot in Search Engine Competition
Media Central, Sept. 25, 1997
Lycos To Produce Microsoft Active Channel Guide
In September, Lycos was selected to produce Microsoft's Active Channel Guide. The guide is for Internet Explorer 4 users and designed to guide them toward sites delivering content via Microsoft's Channel Definition Format.
The agreement is for one-year, with Microsoft getting a fee plus a share of advertising revenues.
For those unfamiliar with CDF, it allows site producers to group a series of web pages into a "channel." IE4 users can subscribe to CDF-produced channels and have content delivered to them on a regular basis, as designated by the channel producer.
Search Engine Watch, for example, has a Search Engines Channel that delivers select pages from the site to channel subscribers on a weekly basis.
The move puts Lycos in competition with Excite, which was picked by PointCast in April to produce a similar directory of CDF-produced channels.
PointCast is tightly allied with Microsoft in the fight against Netscape to win the channel delivery format. PointCast channels are now produced using CDF, as opposed to Netscape's channel standard. So the guide Excite manages for PointCast provides similar content to what Lycos is compiling.
However, it can be expected that many more people will be using IE4 than PointCast's software, so Lycos stands to gain many more visitors to its guide.
It also puts Lycos in a new league of having an exclusive partnership with one of the two major browser vendors.
To date, only Yahoo and Excite have had such deals. Yahoo produces Netscape's US guide to the web, while Excite produces several international web guides for Netscape.
The move also has Microsoft mirroring Netscape's strategy of being exclusive in one arena but still playing the field in another. Despite Netscape's exclusive guide deals, positions on its important Net Search page are sold to various search engines. Net Search is the page that loads when users push Netscape search button.
Microsoft has a similar page for its browsers, and like Netscape, the Find It Fast page continues to promote several search engines.
When I talked with Lycos in September, before the new guide launched, they weren't able to reveal whether crawling was being used to build the IE4 guide.
Now that the guide is live, it was impossible to tell exactly how it is being compiled. Listings are browsable, and while there is also a search option, this failed every time I used it. Any search merely caused the home page to reload, and after about 10 minutes of clicking around, my system resources dropped to nil, forcing me to restart my machine.
In all, the guide still seems like it is under construction. And if I had to pin blame, it would be more on Microsoft than Lycos. The guide has all the usual Microsoft overkill that makes visiting its web site such a chore.
Nor is adding a site to the guide an easy matter. It's not enough to create a CDF file. Microsoft insists on requiring a dynamic HTML intro page.
In contrast, the Excite-Pointcast guide is a straightforward directory. There is no crawling that's taking place. Sites submit themselves for the guide and are added upon approval. Submission is easy, and I found my entry processed within a week.
Microsoft Active Channel Guide
Excite's PointCast Connections Directory
Lycos Press Release
Lycos, Sept. 9, 1997
Microsoft picks Lycos for channel guide
PC Week, Sept. 9, 1997
Microsoft Taps Lycos for Push Guide
Computer News Daily, Sept. 9. 1997
First, Lycos announced on Sept 2 that it will get a patent on spidering technology, causing analysts to speculate that Lycos might go after other search engines for royalties. Next, Infoseek announced on Sept. 8 that it already has a patent. Others search engines then said they have patents or patents pending.
The whole thing is likely a tempest in a teapot, as none of the search engines spider the web in exactly the same way. Whether one patent could be applied broadly against the rest seems unlikely.
For those who want to know more, an extended article about the topic can be found in Search Engine Watch from the link below. Also, later in the month, I expect to post an article specifically about the Infoseek patent, but much more focused on the way the technology may be applied to improve web searching.
Search Engine Report, Oct. 6, 1997
Infoseek Press Release
Infoseek, Sept. 8, 1997
Lycos Press Release
Lycos, Sept. 2, 1997
AltaVista Chief Resigns
Ilene Lang, who was head of Digital's AltaVista Internet Software division, left the company in early September. She apparently resigned soon after Digital decided in June against spinning off the division into its own company. The move is accompanied by stories quoting various analysts saying it Lang's resignation means AltaVista will be less prominent as a search service. AltaVista says not so, and that there a big plans ahead, including multimedia searching. In addition, AltaVista has supplanted WebCrawler in the Media Metrix ratings for the past two months, taking over the number 5 spot.
AltaVista Searches for an Identity
Wired, Sept.19. 1997
AltaVista searches for new market
News.com, Sept. 18, 1997
Lycos Goes To Belgium
Lycos launched a Belgium-edition of its service on Sept. 18. Lycos Belgium is available in French and Dutch.
Lycos Press Release
Lycos, Sept. 18, 1997
Librarians Guide You Through Searching
I've never ceased to be amazed at how helpful reference librarians can be. They seem to know where everything is within a library. Faster than you can do a title search using the online card catalog, the librarians are pulling books they think will be of help.
It's no surprise that many reference librarians are extending outward and taking advantage of search engines to help patrons find what they are looking for. And beyond that, librarians aiming to teach you to use search engines better have created the two web sites below.
AskScott is a small but high-quality site designed to take you by the hand and point you toward the answers you are looking for. It's run by Scott Nicholson, a librarian at Texas Christian University. Nicholson prominently asks, "What Can I Help You To Find," then directs you along one of eight subject areas. There's also an orientation to searching the web and a more in-depth tutorial.
Search Engine Showdown is produced by writer and Montana State University Reference Librarian Greg R. Notess. In it, you'll find good content, ranging from organized comparison charts, reviews, strategies to searching and more. The site is updated on a regular basis.
Search Engine Showdown
WebCrawler Partners With Barnes & Noble
Along with its new channels, Excite-owned WebCrawler also announced a 2-year partnership with bookseller Barnes & Noble. This follows a recent partnership formed in July between Excite and Amazon, Barnes & Noble's chief competitor.
The move makes Excite the only major search services company to have agreements with both the leading online booksellers. It can do this because it operates two distinct brands. Excite's traffic far outweighs WebCrawler's, but WebCrawler remains a substantial and popular search engine.
Links to Barnes & Noble content will be integrated throughout WebCrawler this month and most prominently featured in the WebCrawler Arts & Books Channel. WebCrawler will share a portion of online book sales generated.
WebCrawler Arts & Books Channel
Excite to Market Barnes & Noble on WebCrawler
Computer News Daily, Sept. 15, 1997
Excite Travels Further
Excite and Preview Travel have expanded their previous partnership into 5-year deal to jointly produce an online travel service, it was announced Sept. 10.
Preview Travel is guaranteeing Excite $15 million of the course of the agreement for exclusivity and promotion within the Excite and Excite-owned WebCrawler. Both companies will share advertising and transaction revenue.
Excite, Preview Travel beef up deal
News.com, Sept. 10, 1997
Excite Gains $15M Travel Partner
WebWeek, Sept. 15, 1997
Snap Taps Infoseek
The much-awaited online service Snap from CNET launched in September, with searching services one of its main selling points. Some analysts have positioned Snap as going against Yahoo and Excite.
If so, Snap isn't offering anything new, at least in terms of search technology. Snap is tapping into Infoseek listings, while also using the custom crawl of topical sites that Infoseek already does for Cnet's search service, Search.com. Essentially, Snap presents Search.com with a different look and feel.
Will C/Net's New Online Service Snap?
TechWire, Sept. 19, 1997
New Search Newsgroup Established
People have often been surprised to discover there has been no Internet newsgroup devoted to the topic of searching the web. That sad situation has been rectified, with the approval on Sept. 11 of comp.infosystems.search.
The newsgroup is unmoderated. Its focus is on the discussion of search engine products and related search technology. Specifically, the charter says:
"Discussions should be about different aspects, ramifications, and use of search engines and associated technology. Topics could include setup and administration troubleshooting, indexing, search languages and syntax, search programming and techniques, as well as proper web or enterprise integration, deployment and performance.
This group is not meant for advertisements, or binaries although announcements of new products and reviews would be more than acceptable."
Previously, search-related discussions popped up throughout the other comp.infosystems groups. It is hoped that the newsgroup will help encourage good discussions by centralizing messages.
The group was not placed within the comp.infosystems.www groups, because it is about searching technology in general, not just specifically about searching the web.
Search Engine Articles
Alternatives to Hit Lists Include Ability to Fly Through Data
WebWeek, Sept. 15, 1997
A very enjoyable and interesting article on the challenges of guiding people toward what they want. Despite bells and whistles, there's a tendency to gravitate toward the search box.
Challenges Amid Yahoo's Hypergrowth
WebWeek, Sept. 15, 1997
Seventy servers. Lots of bandwidth. Tons of disk space. If you like hardware, read on to see what it takes to keep Yahoo running.
NET MONEY: Infoseek Shifts Focus, But Entrenched Competitors Await
WebWeek, Sept. 15,1997
A good look at the challenges ahead of Infoseek, now that its management team has been rebuilt and it is firmly aimed back at the consumer market.
Super Search Sites
FamilyPC, Sept. 97
A round up of all the major search sites, with ratings and tips, especially from a family use perspective. Of particular interest is a review of kid-oriented search engines and directories, with comments from the child reviewers: "I searched for Legos and found lots of radical things!" Yahoo and Excite took top scores, followed by Infoseek.
The Right Search Engine
Internet World, Sept. 97
Seek and Ye May Find
Kiplinger Online, Oct. 97
Kiplinger performed two searches, for a wine-related topic, and for a money-related topic, then used the results and other evaluations for a brief review of the search engines. Yahoo and Infoseek were top picks.
Web Sites Advertisers and Surfers Love
BusinessWeek, Oct. 97
Part of a special report on advertising, this table provides some nice numbers on page views and ad revenues.
In search of .....The Next Yahoo
Marketing Computers, Oct 97
A look, interesting look at Yahoo being the best-known brand on the Internet, and the challenges it faces to maintain that prestige.
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This newsletter is Copyright (c) Danny Sullivan, 1997