Last issue, I wrote about several software packages that allow metasearching from the desktop. Now Infoseek has released its own metasearch software, a first by any of the major search services.
AltaVista does provide its own Discovery software, but that is designed to work exclusively with the AltaVista search engine. In contrast, Infoseek Express pulls results in from all of the major services in addition to Infoseek.
Express also provides a variety of specialty search services, such as newsgroups, street maps and books. But it is the web searching that will probably attract most people.
The software is completely integrated into your browser. Once installed, a small Express drop down button will appear next to your address box. Selecting "Go To Express" will cause the program to load within your browser, set for web searching. Simply enter your search terms, hit the search button, and Express will pull back results.
The package runs in two modes. In Speed mode, it lists results in order of how fast they are returned by the various services. Alternatively, Relevancy mode takes more time, but it causes the program to list pages that appear in multiple search engines first -- a very nice touch.
In either mode, Infoseek's results are not given a boost over the others. They do seem to appear higher when running in Speed mode, but I suspect this is due to the program retrieving results faster from Infoseek than the other services.
Another nicety is that search terms are highlighted in the search results. Express even has a dedicated highlight mode, where you can enter a URL, some search terms, then have the page displayed with all the search terms highlighted.
Express instructs users to enter search terms separated by commas, so if you were looking for low price computers, you'd enter, "low price, computer." However, searches can be done perfectly fine without using commas, and I would suggest you enter terms exactly as you normally would into a web-based service.
Like other metasearch packages, Express also allows you to download pages from the results for offline viewing, and it will automatically highlight search terms when pages are viewed this way.
The package is free, with Infoseek hoping to make money through ads that it sells. These appear in the upper right hand corner of the Express window, within the browser.
Sensitive to online ad revenue, Infoseek also displays banner ads from its service and those of competing search services in the search results, with a random rotation determining whose ad appears at the top of the page. It's an uncommon degree of fairness for the web these days, but one that makes sense, as Infoseek doesn't want its competitors complaining that the tool plays favorites.
Of course, if you hate ads entirely, there are alternative packages that work similarly to Express. These are described via the link below, but you'll pay a fee to be ad free.
Express has been two years in the making, and it clearly comes across as a project where a lot of time and care have been involved. There are all sorts of options for customizing it that I've not covered, and those who like metasearch software will no doubt enjoy exploring the software's full potential.
Express is available for Window 95/98/NT, and it will work with Netscape or Explorer versions three and higher. However, you must be running a screen resolution of 800 x 600 or better. Infoseek is considering Unix and Mac versions but it is waiting to see how popular the tool is with Windows users first.
For marketers, Express also offers branded versions as part of its distribution effort. In about 10 minutes, you can create a version with your site logo and selected links in a category you create.
Infoseek Express: Search Engine Watch Edition
This version has a direct link to Search Engine Watch plus a few links to other sites that deal with searching the web.
Search Utilities Go Beyond Metasearch
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 2, 1998
What's metasearch software? This article from the last newsletter explains common features and examines some recently updated programs.
AltaVista Releases Search Software
The Search Engine Report, Aug. 4, 1998
Details about AltaVista Discovery, and how the software enhances the AltaVista search service.