- Internet & the Web
Which Search Engine's Best?
The question is, do you know about search engines? I mean really? Have you been to search engine land? Are you aware there are different kinds of search engines; meta crawlers, one to just find people or just images, others just for videos, computational knowledge engines, and more. Do you know what any of them are? It is a bit confusing but if you use a computer and especially the Internet at some point you will use a search engine.
Google and Yahoo are the most popular but definitely not the only ones. Just to give you a short search engine list:
- Dog Pile
- Ask Jeeves
- Alta Vista
Surprised? We all know what a search engine does, it finds information for us and gives us a list of that information to read or sort through. It is really just software. It's software that uses the words you enter to look for and then search the Internet or databases depending on the software. After searching it compiles a list of matches and near matches and lists them for you. Of course they are not as simple as we make it sound or seem. Actually search engines don't search the entire web. They have their own databases of information that are updated constantly. In a simplified way you could compare them to a card catalog in a library. It's where you go to find the location of the information/book you need. Following that simplification, it is good to know which search engine likes your subject or the area you are searching.
Which Search Engine
All search engines use relevance and popularity to rank web pages. Some use an 'algorithm' to guess which results a user might like to see. A user's search history is used as the basis for providing results. To check your favorite search engine, comScore qSearch™ measures the rankings of search engines, and if you check you will see Google is still number one, boasting nearly two million searches per day which translates into 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide according to live internet stats.
As mentioned earlier, there are lots of search engines, Google's not the only kid on the block. (Let's skip Google and Yahoo since they are so obvious.) What about Ask Jeeves now known as just Ask.com? Ask Jeeves was originally set up to allow you to ask a question when you search. You can certainly still do that. Ask.com also includes engines for kids - askkids.com, includes a question of the day and other features, some found on other search engines, some not, but it's advantage is it is aimed at kids. There aren't a lot of places you want your young children going, so searching with askkids.com is the perfect answer.
Sputtr "Sputtr.com currently holds a database of nearly 100 search engines that its users can utilize to build their own customized multi-search engine on Sputtr's homepage."
There are search engines for specific audiences or subjects. For example, iSeek which "is a targeted search engine for students, teachers, administrators, and caregivers." Another for students is Sweet Search. "SweetSearch ranks up primary sources and credible sites, like universities and public repositories, for students looking to narrow their search."
There are also search directories. From what I understand a directory is more subject specific. It is often compiled by humans as well as by machines. For example WolframAlpha.com is a knowledge base that gives you access to a vast amount of facts and data across a range of topics. Americanmemory.com posted and maintained by the Library of Congress provides you with prints, photographs, historic newspapers, maps, recordings, and more. It is a website but it is also a knowledge base.
The list is practically endless! Her is another list of search engines for you to check out:
- DuckDuckGo - family safe
To find a rally comprehensive list of search engines you can go to http://www.thesearchenginelist.com/
Tips on How to Search
When you search a topic on a search engine you will get tons of replies to choose from. Many times too many. It can take you forever just to go through the results. Search engines ignore common words like "be", "to", etc. If you're searching for two things don't use the word "and" use "+", it's easier for the search engine to understand plus. When the search engine sees "+" it knows to look for both, especially if you use "+" before both words. For example, if you type in +Joe+Smith the search engine will look for pages that contain Joe Smith. That's an over simplification but hopefully you get what I mean.
You can use "and", "or", "not" too. They are called Booleans, based on mathematics. In computer land Boolean operations use digital logic. There are subsets and theories beyond those we're looking at here, however, know they guide your searches.
To a search engine "and" means include all the words in this phrase, like Ben Franklin AND Thomas Jefferson. If you use "or" it tells the search engine you want results that contains either or any of the words in your search. When you use "not" you are telling the search engine you DON'T want that. For example you could say "streets not avenues." The search engine would look for streets and not return any results that contain avenue.
Another trick is to use quotation marks around your search phrase. When you do, the search engine sees it as a search phrase and will look for pages that contain the words in your phrase. Have you ever noticed when you search for, say Boot Hill, the results that come up will be sites for Boot Hill but also for Boot and for Hill? Using quotations around Boot Hill helps eliminate the extra sites in your return.
Be specific. For example, if you're looking for hamburgers in New York, don't enter "hamburgers" enter "hamburgers New York." The search engine will look for restaurants that serve hamburgers, but only in New York.
Search engines recognize capital letters. If you type your phrase in all small letters the search engine will look for matching phrases in small or capital letters but if you use capital letters the search engine will only look for words that match - with capital letters.
Check your spelling. Incorrect spelling can change the results you receive. Sometimes the search engine is able to recognize the word and may return with "did you mean..." sometimes not.
Remember, always start simple. You can add more as you go along, but starting simple will help give you the basics of what you're looking for.
As with search engines there are tons of sites that will help you learn how to search you might like to read some books on the subject or visit websearch.about.com and monash.com/spidap.html. Below is another link that will help you in your quest for search engines as well as two books you might like to look through.
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