HotBot Relaunches, Expands Search Services
From The Search Engine Report
Oct. 6, 1997
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.