Which search engine is ‘best’ for legal professionals? I give the edge to Infoseek.
By Erik J. Heels
First published 8/11/1997; LegalResearcher.com; publisher: New York Law Publishing Company
So many search engines, so little time. And so much to find and do while working the Web. So what’s a web researcher to do? To find information quickly on the Web, your best bet is to become an expert user of one search engine, rather than a novice at five or six.
The term “search engine” loosely refers to software used for searching Web sites. A better definition – and one which I’ll use in this review – is that a search engine is a Web site that helps you find other Web sites. Some search engines enable you to search files on your own Web site, but those are not covered in this review.
Search engines include databases that are constructed in one of two ways, either automatically (i.e. by silicon-based workers) or manually (by carbon-based workers). Those constructed automatically include Lycos (http://www.lycos.com/), AltaVista (http://altavista.digital.com/), and Infoseek (http://www.infoseek.com/). All three of these search engines construct their databases using indexing software (called “spiders,” “robots,” or “crawlers”) whose mission in life is to index the full-text of pages of other Web sites.
Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com/) is the best example of a search engine whose database is built by hand. Yahoo includes a form for Web users to submit new sites. Workers at Yahoo then determine an appropriate category of the newly submitted Web site. The end result is a subject-oriented directory of Web sites. Yahoo’s directory is like the table of contents of a book, and that table of contents itself is also searchable.
Other examples of directories include the Law Journal EXTRA! Web site, your bookmarks file, and – indeed – any page on the Web that contains links to other pages! And to complicate matters, since many directories are themselves Web pages, pages from Yahoo often appear in the indices complied by Lycos, AltaVista, and Infoseek. Which is a good thing for Yahoo, don’t you think?
But the goals of the purveyors of manually constructed directories (such as Yahoo) and automatically constructed indices (such as Lycos, AltaVista, and Infoseek) are the same: to help users find information on the Web.