Searching the Internet

Catalogues and search engines let you use keywords to search the Internet for virtually any topic. Not all search engines are created equal, though. As Jian Liu explains, all search devices have been traditionally classified into two general categories: those that focus on organizing and displaying search results, and those that expend more effort on the search process itself.

Yahoo, Metroscope, and The HUGE List, are examples of the first. These classify Internet resources into catagories (such as "computers" or "education) in order to make it easy for you to use the engine to find information. Unfortunately, collecting and categorizing resources is labor intensive and requires a great deal of human intervention. While these engines may be easy to use and interesting to look at, the depth and breadth of their search is often limited.

Lycos, Alta Vista, and Inktomi are examples of search engines that focus more on the search process itself. These engines generally will be able to locate more things and return thousands of hits during a single search. The greater number of hits means more work for the user, but it also ensures a more complete search.

A new generation of fast, powerful engines, like Alta Vista and Inktomi, will read and classify every word on every WWW page and FTP site they stumble upon. You could do a keyword search on, say, "James Joyce," and find every document in which "James" and "Joyce" are mentioned together and seperately.

Such a capabilitiy makes traditional keyword search methods a bit unwieldy. If these engines become models for the future we will need to develop new search methods that require more specific approaches. Instead of keywords, we might use quotes, specific facts with boolean tags that can make the facts more specific to a particular kind of document.

The general trend seems to show that engines are developing similar characteristics and becoming more and more alike. In the future, the differences between Yahoo and Inktomi may be based more on quality (the kind of information gathered and catalogued) rather than on the quantity of information (although the number of hits a search engine makes on any given task will probably always be important).

To learn more about search engines and how to use them, see Jian Liu's "Understanding WWW Search Tools," Ian Winship's "World Wide Web Searching Tools -- An Evaluation."

Selected Catalogues and Directories

The HUGE List
Starting Point
The Whole Internet Cataloge
WWW Virtual Library
WWW Yellow Pages

Search Engines

Alta Vista

Email Address Searches

Four11 Directory

Gopher Searches

Granted, this may be old technology, but gophering is one of the best ways to get around the Net. A great deal of information is still maintained in gopher holes and can only be located there. A thorough search of material on the Internet must include gopher.

Alex: Gopher to and select "/Library Without Walls/Electronic Journals"

Archie: One of the first widely used internet search engines. Still useful. Telnet to and select "/search"

Veronica, Archie's pal, another old favorite. Gopher to and select "/search"

Bill Klein's Homepage
UMSL English Dept.
UM-St. Louis - - Revised 7/21/96
Copyright & Copy; 1996 University of Missouri