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Web Walker: Search Sites
1997, May-Jun (September 22, 2008)
By Michael Harvey

Ask a group of individuals who surf the World Wide Web to name their favorite Web sites, and you are likely to get different answers from each person. As a fan of the Beatles, I enjoy sites that provide information about John, Paul, George or Ringo, their recordings, and their past and future projects. For example, http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/beatles.html is a Beatles Web page maintained by Joe Brennan, with links to scads of other sites.

How did I find thise sites? I used a search site. And to be honest, the search sites are my favorites. Basically, there are two types of search sites. One type provides links to lists compiled by editors and reviewers:

I recently installed Real Audio software on my PC at home. I used Yahoo's Multimedia:Sounds list to find a number of sites that exercise the new software, including AudioNet CD Rom Jukebox, http://ww2.audionet.com/jukebox/. There, I can listen to new audio CD releases over the network. Recently, I've been keeping up with the NCAA basketball tournament by simply clicking a Yahoo headline. I like Yahoo so much that I made it my Netscape home page. (I don't own stock in Yahoo.)

The other type of search page prompts you for keywords and turns them over to a computer program, which then searches the entire Web and generates an index:

When I needed technical information about Fibre Channel, a high-speed data transfer interface used to connect together workstations, mainframes, supercomputers, storage devices and displays, I used AltaVista to find the CERN Fibre Channel home page, http://www.cern.ch/hsi/fcs/.

Yahoo, Magellan, Lycos, and Excite also allow you to search by keyword. Yahoo and Magellan, from what I can tell, search only their own lists. But if Yahoo cannot find what you entered, it punts to AltaVista. Excite and Lycos let you choose where to search: the whole Web or their own lists. Excite even lets you search Usenet news groups, something in which DejaNews, http://www.dejanews.com/ specializes.

What's the difference between the two types of sites? To me, going to sites that provide links to lists is like going to a bookstore to browse. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for, but I have a topic. Or maybe I'm not looking for anything in particular, and I just want to browse what?s new, or whatever catches my eye in the center displays. If I want information or need help, it's easy to find. In contrast, going to sites that create indexes is like going to a bookstore when I know what I want, and going straight to the counter and asking for it.

Two widely used browsers, Netscape and Internet Explorer, have search buttons that give you immediate access to a range of search sites. That's a good way to discover new search sites.

There's no better place to find out about new developments on the Internet than the Web. Scientific American's March issue is entitled, The Internet, Bringing Order from Chaos, and you can find it at http://www.sciam.com/0397issue/0397intro.html. How did I find out about this site? The old fashioned way: a human being told me about it. End of article.

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