Since the inception of Web search engines in 1993, one of the mantras of the Internet has been "Seek and Ye Shall Find." Big names in Web search since then have included Lycos, AltaVista, Excite, Northern Light, Yahoo Search, and MSN Search (now named Windows Live Search).
But the biggest name is Google, which from soon after its launch in 1998 became and still remains the most popular and versatile Internet search tool. Google continues to expand in scope, now letting you search for not only text but also images, video, news, maps, books, scholarly papers, discussion group posts, blog content and more. Google may be the only search tool you use, but if it is, you may be missing out.
Though the Web contains a world-wide cache of data, there are more worlds out there worth exploring. And despite Google's knack for returning relevant results, there can be faster ways of getting to just the information you need.
When you do a Google search, among the first links often returned is the relevant article in Wikipedia
, the Web-based encyclopedia that lets anybody add an article or edit an existing article. It can sometimes make sense, therefore, to go there first.
The overall quality of Wikipedia's content is often surprisingly good, and its comprehensiveness is unsurpassed in encyclopedias today, online or print, with nearly 2 million articles in English. You need to be on the lookout, however, for prank or sabotaged articles, though typically they're removed or corrected quickly. Another downside is that technical articles are often written for technical people without including more basic material first.
Unlike Wikipedia, Encyclopaedia Britannica
isn't free, and it has fewer than 10 percent of the number of articles. But its subscription fee of $69.95/year represents a savings of more than $1,325 off the printed version, and the articles tend to be more in-depth than Wikipedia's.Answers.com
is a free, advertising-supported service that combines the articles of Wikipedia with content from more than 120 titles from others publishers and its own original content.
For even greater scope, HighBeam
provides access to the information in more than 35 million documents from over 3,000 sources, including newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, transcripts, white papers, books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauruses, and almanacs. Most of this content isn't on the free Web. The cost is $199.95 per year or $29.95 per month.Refdesk
is an oldie but goodie, providing a host of different reference services, including calendar, currency converter, news, stock quotes, dictionary, maps, weather forecasts, and more.
The tools of choice for many librarians and professional researchers are commercial research databases. Top services include Dialog
, which aggregate information from hundreds of third-party databases and let you quickly search through any or all of them using the same search procedures.
Dialog, created in 1972, was the world's first online information retrieval system. It has traditionally been strong on scientific, technical, and intellectual-property material, and it's still that way. But now it's also excellent with general and business news.
LexisNexis is a combination of Lexis, the premier source of in-depth legal and regulatory information and public