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Search Center


This is our Never Asked Questions page, where you'll find answers to all the questions you'd never have thought to ask. You'll find information about the site, the finding tools on the site, searching the Web, and anything else that I happen to think of.


How did you pick the finding tools to put on this site?

The first thing was finding stuff to choose from. I used Yahoo and the collections of finding tools linked from the More Stuff page. Then I picked out finding tools that met these criteria:

It had to be either a search engine or a searchable index -- no indexes without search functions were included.
It had to work when I tried it out. Sounds reasonable, huh?
It had to invite visitors to put a link or search form on their pages.
It had to cover the whole Web, a large geographical area, or a country. There are state- and province-specific tools, but I didn't include any of them.
It had to be reasonably "general-interest." Tools limited to narrow subject-matter (for example, celebrity pages, business sites, medical information) weren't included.

Just how good are these things?

The finding tools in the Search Center run the gamut from really great to rather sad. But who knows? Maybe even one of the wimpy ones might find just what you're looking for.

Are there other worthwhile finding tools that aren't included here?

Sure! Plenty of them. When it comes to the Web, anybody who says he's giving you a "complete collection of such-and-such" or a "comprehensive listing of so-and-so" is blowing smoke. The Web is too fast-growing and too fast-changing for that.

What's the difference between a search engine and an index?

Back when all this stuff started, there were two different types of finding tools. Search engines gathered up URLs into a data base -- either through people submitting them or by use of "robots" and "spiders" -- then let you put in search terms to look up in the data base. AltaVista is a good example. Indexes (also called "directories") were lists of sites organized into categories and subcategories. You looked through the lists to find what you wanted. Yahoo is the best example of these. Nowadays, the difference has gotten blurry in many cases. Most of the indexes let you do keyword or text searches of their contents, and some of the search engines have added indexed lists of sites.

What about these metasearch engines?

Metasearch engines are slick gadgets. You put in the term or terms you want to search for, then they go out and run searches on a bunch of search engines and report the results to you. One of the best is Dogpile, which you can find on the More Stuff page. Now here's the problem with metasearchers.... Search engines usually give you a variety of ways to tailor your searches to produce the best results. You can use Boolean or delimited search expressions to narrow your search, search by ranges of dates, and so forth. The kicker is that each of them does it a little differently. So the metasearch engines have to try to translate what you put in into terms that each search engine can handle. And that isn't easy. Some metasearch engines don't even bother tying. Dogpile does the best job of this I've seen, which is why it's my favorite.

How can I put one of these on my site?

Go to the finding tool's site. If there isn't a button to take you there, just do a search for something. Once you're on the site, poke around to find the instructions for adding the search form or link button to your site.


Search Center