Date:         Tue, 10 Aug 1999 01:50:03 -0400
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 10 Aug 99 - Search Engine News
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             TODAY'S TOURBUS TOPIC: Search Engine News
I read something recently that shocked me.  According to a study
published in the July 1999 issue of Nature Magazine, search engine
coverage of the Web has decreased substantially since December 1997,
with no engine indexing more than 16% of the approximately 800 million
known web pages.
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 Diminising Returns?
The top-ranking search engine in terms of overall coverage was
Northern Light, closely followed by Snap and Altavista.  Yup, the
best of the best only knows about ONE SIXTH of the web pages out
there.  In the previous study done 18 months ago, Hotbot was in the
lead with 34% coverage, but surprisingly, things have gotten worse
instead of better since then.
While writing this, I had a flashback to January 1996, when I wrote
in TOURBUS about the introduction of AltaVista:
> This kind of technology has the potential to revolutionize the
> way we deal with information.  We're on the brink of being able
> to make the sum total of written human knowledge available and
> searchable by ordinary folks.
I still think that's possible, but it's clear that the major search
engines have not been keeping pace with a rapidly expanding Internet
in the past three years.
 This Just In...
There may be hope for my "searchable world" vision, though.  Just a
few days ago, the folks at Fast Search & Transfer announced FAST
Search - The World's Biggest Search Engine(TM), located at 
FAST has created a search engine with the ultimate goal of searching
the entire web.  Their new toy is the result of more than a decade
of research into optimizing search algorithms and architectures, a
project originally initiated at the Norwegian Institute of Technology
in Trondheim.
FAST Search currently includes more than 200 million unique URLs in
its database, making it almost twice the size of Inktomi and three
to four times bigger than several popular search engines.  In one
year's time, the company expects to catalog the entire Internet, and
then to keep up with the growth of the Web from that point forward.
Many users mistakenly assume they are searching the entire Internet
during a search engine query, but that's far from true.  Hopefully
FAST Search will be able to make good on their promise to make this
a reality.
 Okay, It's Big.  But is it Fast?
After trying a few searches myself, I have to say yes.  A typical
query on FAST Search races through all 200 million documents in less
than 1 second.  In addition, by using many systems working in
parallel, FAST Search builds its document index in only 12 hours, a
task that takes many search engines several days or even weeks to
perform. The result is fresher information to web surfers on a more
consistent basis.
The big question in my mind is whether FAST will remain fast.  I
remember when AltaVista first arrived, searches were blazingly fast,
but today it doesn't seem as peppy.
My only complaint with FAST Search is the ordering (relevance) of
the results.  A search on "Internet Tourbus" turns up 1820 results,
but most of the top ten are rather dated.  My suggestion to the FAST
folks: Team up with the people developing Google, since they seem to
have the relevance angle pretty well figured out.  (I covered Google
in "TOURBUS - 22 Sep 1998 - Revving Up the Search Engines".  Check
the Tourbus archives for the complete article.)
That's all for now, see you next time!  --Bob Rankin
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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TOURBUS - 10 Aug 99 - Search Engine News, viruses, hoaxes, urban legends, search engines, cookies, cool sites
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