As Internet Partners
Search Engines & Directories
If you don't know the URL or web address for information
you want on the Internet, what can you do? You can use a search
engine or a directory
to locate websites that have the answer to your query or question for a
Search engines allow
you to search the Internet for web pages that contain certain words or
A search engine uses a software program called a
spider, crawler, or robot to go through hyperlinks from page to page on
the World Wide Web to create an automated search index. This is a database
that indexes some or all of the words appearing on web pages, except for
common words such as "a," "and," "in," "to," "the," etc. So when you submit
your query, the search engine goes through the index to find all the web
pages containing those words, combinations of words, or phrases. The search
engine gives you a list of the web pages that fits your query.
Search engines are computer programs that are totally
automated. No one reviews the information returned by the spider to see
if it is accurately reflects your search. No two search engines are the
same because they are programmed to index differently, have different definitions
for terms, have different ways of ranking results, or treat queries differently.
Therefore, different search engines produce different results for the same
is one of the largest search engines on the web. It is very comprehensive
and gives the user integrated search results. It provides immediate access
to the most relevant information including Web pages, multimedia files,
up-to-the minute news, products and services, and a free language translation
service with Babel Fish. AltaVista has a wide range of power searching
commands, allowing you to do simple and advanced searches, making it very
popular with researchers.
Ask Jeeves! (http://askjeeves.com)
is another leading search service. It allows users to pose questions in
plain English and gives users fast access to links to websites containing
relevant information. Instead of just counting links to a site, Ask Jeeves'
user-relevancy ranking algorithms rate websites and Ask Jeeves' editors
use human judgment to provide the most useful, relevant information on
is a popular search engine on the web. It is a medium-sized index of approximately
408 million documents. Excite lists search results according to relevancy
or how closely they match your query. Excite also offers Excite Search,
a web directory of the Excite search index. Excite Search selects the most
relevant and popular web pages to match a query. Its expert reviewers are
constantly reviewing the content of web pages, removing dead links and
duplicate pages to improve the quality of its search results.
is one of the most popular search engines because it ranks websites by
link popularity. Users like Google because they find it helpful to know
the sites that other users use and consider to be good sites.
A directory such as Yahoo
has human editors to create its listings. A web master submits a description
of his site to the directory for editors to review. Searches in a directory
give matches based on the editors' descriptions of websites.
Should you use a search engine or a directory?
Clearinghouse (http://www.clearinghouse.net/) contains detailed subject
guides where subject specialists have reviewed, selected and compiled links
relevant to their area of specialty. The links are all intended to be of
scholarly quality. The search feature is not very sophisticated, but it
really isn't necessary because the subjects are so well classified and
the resources are selective (not as huge a database as some of the others).
Internet Public Library Reference Center (http://www.ipl.org/ref/)
is a collection of Internet resources gathered together by librarians.
It is not a comprehensive hotlist to all sites on every subject, but rather
an annotated collection, chosen to help answer specific questions quickly
and efficiently. Sources are selected according to ease of use, quality
and quantity of information, frequency of updating, and authoritativeness.
Some of the categories are: Education, Arts & Humanities, Science &
Technology, Computers & Internet, Business, and Law & Government.
The Librarians' Index
to the Internet (LII) (http://www.lii.org) is a searchable, annotated
subject directory of more than 8,600 Internet resources selected and evaluated
by librarians for their usefulness to users of public libraries. LII is
used by both librarians and the general public as a reliable and efficient
guide to Internet resources. It began in 1990 as reference librarian Carole
Leita's Gopher bookmark file. In March 1997, the Berkeley Public Library
Index to the Internet was moved to the Berkeley SunSITE and was renamed
the Librarians' Index to the Internet.
(http://www.yahoo.com) is the World Wide Web's most popular search service.
Most people consider think that Yahoo is a search engine, but it
is really a directory. It is the largest human-compiled guide to the WWW,
with over 1 million sites listed and categorized. Launched in late 1994,
it is the oldest major web directory.
Depending on what you are
looking for on the Internet, you may choose to use a search engine rather
than a directory. However, in other cases, you might find a directory is
more useful. Try different search engines and directories, get familiar
with how they operate, and decide which ones you like best. Even though
many search tools are similar, they are all different. So if you don't
find what you are looking for in one search tool, you might try another
search engine or directory.
Updated : March 7, 2002
© Henry Waldinger Memorial Library,