Professional searchers may still bemoan the lack of search capabilities and precision in Web search engines, but may have settled on one or more as their current engine of choiceŚwell, at least for the moment. Maybe it's Google, or alltheweb.com (FAST), or one of the meaning-based search engines like Oingo (http://www.oingo.com). Northern Light (NL) may be preferred for its categorization and searching of proprietary databases besides the Web. We may also prefer some of the subject-specialized engines, such as Achoo (http://www.achoo.com) for health and medicine, and FindLaw (http://findlaw.com) for legal information.
Despite the difficult financial climate for Internet companies these days, search engines continue to be improved, and new ones are constantly being developed. The new engines tend to be slice or targeted engines that search specific subjects or ones that offer some new angle on Web search capabilities.
Pandia Search Central (http://www.pandia.com) is a site that debuted in September 1999 with the goal of helping people use search services more effectively. It offers helpful tutorials on searching, search engine directories and search tips, a metasearch engine, a special people search, and an online Radio Search Directory. It recently launched a new service called Newsfinder (http://www.pandia.com/news/index.html). The Newsfinder uses the Pandia metasearch engine and provides headlines, summaries, and links to articles from some of the best news sites on the Internet, including the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo!, The Washington Post, NewsHub, and Moreover. Besides offering a keyword search for news, users can browse stories by topic in main categories, like Technology, Internet, or Business. The site also provides a handy list with links to newspapers and other news sites. The news service doesn't offer any news alerts or headlines by e-mail, but Pandia offers Pandia Post, a free bimonthly newsletter on Internet searching.
Vivisimo (http://www.vivisimo.com) is a metasearch engine that is still in beta. The site is pretty bare bones at this point, with no instructions and no contact information, other than to e-mail your comments. Its developer and company president, Raul Valdes-Perez, is a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Vivisimo lets you choose among several search engines (Yahoo!, AltaVista, Lycos, Open Directory) or choose to search all, and then presents the results clustered into categories with folders, very similar to the Custom Folders in Northern Light. (Hmmm, I wonder if NL has a problem with this close imitation?) You can also search within your results. While I found it to be a bit slow, and on some of my test searches the categorization seemed to just pull words from titles, Vivisimo is certainly worth a look.
If you haven't yet had your news delivered by a talking head virtual newscaster, you may want to look at Ananova (http://www.ananova.com). But, if you don't want to view the video news, Ananova is also a news search engine that covers a broad range of sources, and offers searching, browsing by topic and news alerts by e-mail. It has a U.K. orientation but is good for English-language news from around the world.
Science searching has received a boost lately with all kinds of developments in specific search engines. Last month, Elsevier Science (http://www.elsevier.com) announced that it's developing a Web search engine for scientific information that will search both free and proprietary (access-controlled) content. The new engine, Scirus (http://www.scirus.com) uses the technology behind FAST Web Search (http://www.alltheweb.com) and is scheduled to officially launch in March. (See the December 11, 2000 NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17693.)
Several other science search engines are worth a test drive as well. Take a look at search4science (http://www.search4science.com), which was created "by scientists for scientists" and provides a community, but doesn't seem to provide details of what is actually searched. SciSeek (http://www.sciseek.com) is another site that allows searching and browsing by categories for scientific information, and provides a number of useful tools and resources, such as calculators and converters.
In related news, we've recently heard about another science service currently in development, GetInfo (http://www.getinfo-doc.de/en/index_en.html), which is a full-text server for electronic documents in science and technology. GetInfo is a joint venture of FIZ Karlsruhe and Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) in Hanover, Germany. Its public release will be this spring. According to information on the site, titles and abstracts of the information searched in the GetInfo database will be generally free. Display of full texts will be charged depending on the prices stipulated by the individual publishers or copyright holders. While the extent of Web coverage isn't clear yet, it does state that a "single search covers the holdings of a multitude of servers at publishers, learned societies, and national and international institutions." Watch http://www.infotoday.com for additional information about this new service.