Needles in the internet haystack

[Dana H. Schultz]

Plenty of search sites have tried to impose some order on the unruly Internet. But each has its own, limited point of view. Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) has a wonderful directory structure yet cannot match HotBot's (www.hotbot.com) powerful searching capabilities. Four11 (www.four11.com) is the premier site for finding people, while BigBook (www.bigbook.com) sets the standard for locating businesses. Deja News (www.dejanews.com) has archives from 20,000 Usenet newsgroups but ignores web sites.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to search a bunch of these sites at one time? The good news is, you can!

Metasearch services

"Metasearch" services are web sites that allow you to send a query to multiple search sites at one time. Here are descriptions of some of the best metasearch services.

My favorite is MetaCrawler (www.metacrawler.com), primarily because it is fast. MetaCrawler searches the web, Usenet newsgroups and other sites, translating queries into the form required for the various search programs.

MetaCrawler integrates, organizes and ranks results from multiple search sites and eliminates duplicates from the results list. The user can limit the number of hits returned.

ProFusion (www.designlab.ukans.edu/profusion/) has similar capabilities to those offered by MetaCrawler, but is more sophisticated. ProFusion allows searching of any combination, or all, of nine search sites.

Ongoing updates

One of ProFusion's best features is free registration for a personalized results page. Once you have created a personalized results page, ProFusion will automatically run your searches weekly or monthly and send you new results via e-mail.

SavvySearch (guaraldi.cs.colostate.edu:2000/form) has similar capabilities to those offered by ProFusion, but without the personalized results page.

MegaWeb (stoat.shef.ac.uk:8080/megaweb) is particularly appropriate for users who have specialized search needs. MegaWeb supports searching within categories, such as people finders or Web directories.

MegaWeb has two especially noteworthy features: the ability to search for software titles (for example, if you need to download a recent update) and a multilingual interface.

If you would like to see an extensive list of search sites and meta-search services, check out WWW Search Engines at www.tomco.net/~cprags/search.htm or The Front Page's Collection of Search Engines at www.thefrontpage.com/search/search.html.

With a Metasearch service at your fingertips, there is no excuse for not finding what you need on the Internet!

Some afterthoughts

Speaking of unruly, now that Internet e-mail has gained almost-universal acceptance, junk e-mail has increased to an almost unmanageable level. Much of the junk - including, in my experience, many of the solicitations for pornographic web sites - is addressed from hotmail (www.hotmail.com), the free e-mail service recently purchased by Microsoft. (As I understand it, many junk mailers forge hotmail addresses and are not actually hotmail subscribers.)

To fight back, I recently started filtering incoming e-mail. Every message with "hotmail" in the "From:" portion of the header is automatically transferred to Trash for disposal. My apologies to readers who may have tried to communicate with me from hotmail. I am sorry to have to discard your messages, but at this point, I feel that I have no choice.

Dana H. Shultz is an Oakland-based lawyer, certified management consultant and speaker specializing in office technology and online marketing. He may be reached by e-mail at dhshultz@ds-a.com and on the World Wide Web at http://www.seamless.com/ds/.