A Field Guide to Web Search Sites

(from the New York Times)

Northern Light

In addition to its index of Web pages, Northern Light also searches through pay-per-view articles from periodicals and books not generally available on the Web. It sorts its results into topic headings, which can prove very useful.

Internet Sleuth

Internet Sleuth is a 3,000-strong collection of specialized online databases, which can also simultaneously search up to six other search sites for Web pages, news and other types of information. It's excellent for highly specialized searches in any subjects in its detailed directory - but the metasearch results aren't sorted intuitively.


This metasearch site can go through 13 Web search engines, more than two dozen online news services or other types of sources, and sorts the results by the search engine that found them. While this is not the most useful presentation if you just want the facts, it's a good way to check which search engine works best for you.

Ask Jeeves

An excellent beginner's site that's also good for anyone's general queries, Ask Jeeves leads you through questions to help narrow your search, and also simultaneously searches six other search sites for relevant Web pages. Its ability to interpret natural language queries makes it easy to learn but also makes constructing precise queries difficult.


When searching for Web pages, news stories and Usenet postings, Infoseek produces very accurate and relevant results. But according to Search Engine Watch (www.searchenginewatch.com), it has a much smaller index of Web pages than many others.


Good for searches on broad general topics, Excite adds interesting extras like a simultaneous search of the Web, news headlines, sports scores and company information - and groups the relevant results on a single page. Some reviewers have complained that the search results aren't always relevant.

Alta Vista

Another excellent tool for exhaustive and precise searches, Alta Vista makes it harder than Hotbot does for beginners to construct precise queries, but once you've mastered its search syntax, it's quick and easy to use. Its results, however, can include many duplicates.


A human-compiled directory of Web sites, Yahoo doesn't help you search for the contents of individual Web pages. It's excellent for researching broad general topics, but tends to return too many results, many of them irrelevant.


Lycos provides a good selection of advanced search capabilities, like the ability to search for specific media types (JPEG files, Java scripts and so on). Its advanced search, Lycos Pro, provides even more options. But general Web searches can produce checkered results. Also, Lycos's index of Web pages is small.


This is the search site of Wired magazine, whose search engine Inktomi also powers Snap.com's and Yahoo's Web searches. It is an excellent tool for finding specific information. In addition to a thorough and up-to-date index, it provides an easy interface for constructing precise search queries - but this requires extra effort up front.


This is a metasearch site, simultaneously searching Yahoo, Excite, and five other search engines, then aggregating the results. It's excellent for getting a quick hit of what's out there. But if you don't see what you want in the results, its limited search options make it tough to issue really precise queries.

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