How to find what you want on the web

By EW Staff
September 04, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Trying to dig up information on the Internet can be a search-and-destroy process: You search and search until you feel like destroying your computer. There are at least 320 million pages of information on the Web, but search engines like Infoseek (http://www.infoseek.com) or directories like Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com) cover only a fraction of that info. How can you ever hope to find what you’re looking for?

First, start with a site that fits your particular needs. If you’re after an established Mary Tyler Moore fan page, a directory like Yahoo! is convenient, since actual humans sort new sites into hundreds of subcategories and eliminate most junk.

Since Yahoo! is not always up-to-date, your next stop should be broader engines like HotBot (http://www.hotbot.com) or Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.digital. com). But because these sites use ”spider” programs that snare everything they pass, don’t be surprised to find a few sex sites when looking for a Barenaked Ladies page.

Some common search tips can help you avoid such snafus. When looking for a specific person, place, or thing, put quotes around the phrase or name (i.e., ”Barenaked Ladies”) — and if it’s a proper name, use the proper capitalization. Also, placing a plus sign in front of each search term will ensure that the only pages you find include all those words.

When searching for obscure subjects, it’s best to use a specialized directory. Want to find out about Boston rockers Gigolo Aunts? Try the Ultimate Band List (http://www.ubl.com). Need the production credits for Citizen Kane? Try the Internet Movie Database (us.imdb.com). Looking for a lost friend? Try WhoWhere (http://www.whowhere. com), which will not only turn up phone numbers but also give you directions to the person’s house. In general, the best strategy is to start at one of the major search engines and look for a specialized directory covering your specific interest.

If all this still doesn’t help, you’ll find some solace (and a few laughs) by checking out Voyeur (voyeur.mckinley.com/cgi-bin/voyeur.cgi) or MetaSpy (http://www.metaspy.com). Both sites post the weird things other folks are looking for on the Web. If nothing else, they’ll persuade you to brush up on your spelling.

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