Network: Web Design - Search for the right engine

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THIS WEEK, I want to talk about the major search engines, some of the newer players, and maybe even give a few of their secrets away.

There are a few search engines that have risen to the top and are used by the majority of Web surfers. Make sure that you keep your bookmarks as up-to-date as possible on these key players.

Yahoo! (http://www. yahoo.com) is the unquestioned champion of Web search engines. It was the original website directory, started in 1994 by two Stanford University buddies who wanted to share websites with each other. The human element is still very strong at Yahoo, which maintains a staff of more than 150 editors who take submitted sites and add them to the index.

AltaVista (http://www. altavista.com), originally started by the late Digital Equipment Corporation, has now spun off into its own entity, and is one of the largest indexes in terms of the shear number of pages crawled. In addition, AltaVista provides powerful tools to help visitors go beyond simple keyword searches.

Excite (http://www. excite.com) uses link popularity to elevate sites in its listings. Thus the more sites that link to a site, the more likely that site is to appear at the top of the search results list.

Infoseek (http://www. infoseek.com) is part of Disney's Go portal site and uses the ESP algorithm to help deliver results.

Lycos (http://www. lycos.com) was one of the first spider-based search engines, started in mid-1994. However, it recently switched to a Yahoo- like directory structure, getting most of its listings from the Open Directory Project (see below) supported by secondary results that come from spidering the Web.

HotBot (http://www. hotbot.com) was purchased by Lycos, but it is maintained as a separate search engine and maintains a loyal following. It combines results from Direct Hit (http://www.directhit. com), Inktomi and the Open Directory Project using its own powerful set of searching tools.

There are several up- and-coming search engines that are putting the fun back into searching the Web. These are my own search engines of choice, and I highly recommend them.

Ask Jeeves (http:// www.askjeeves.com) puts a spin on the traditional keyword search by allowing visitors to type in "natural language" queries to help guide them to the page they are looking for. The upshot is that when you type in a question, rather than just delivering a list of links, Ask Jeeves will help you narrow down your search by asking you questions until you find what you are looking for.

Google (http://www. google.com), like Excite, uses link popularity to rank pages, where the more links a page has to it, the higher it appears in the list. But Google goes one step further and also uses the link text to rank the page it is pointing to.

The DMOZ Open Directory Project (http:// www.dmoz.org) is a Yahoo-like directory of websites, but unlike Yahoo, which pays its editors, DMOZ uses the Open Source philosophy with volunteer editors who evaluate sites for inclusion within the directory. Anyone can sign up to become an editor in their field of expertise.

There are far too many search engines for me to detail in the limited space I have here. However, there is an excellent resource called Search Engine Watch (http://www. searchenginewatch.com). Here you'll find indepth information about all things searchable.

Next week: getting your site noticed.

Jason Cranford Teague is the author of `DHTML for the World Wide Web'. You can find an archive of his column at (http://www. webbedenvironments. com) or e-mail jason@ webbedenvironments.com

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