This page was compiled by George Klemic

How to Search the Web: A Guide To Search Tools, July 96. Terry A. Gray.

Summary of Search Engine Features

The following table summarizes some of the common features of the search engines discussed above. Boldfaced elements mean that, in my opinion, this search engine makes the best implementation of this feature. The Internet Sleuth and Magellan are not included, since their features are so different from the others here considered. The names at the head of the columns are hot.

Internet Search Engines
Category AltaVista Excite WebCrawler Lycos OpenText InfoSeek Yahoo! NlightN
Case Sensitive? Y N N N N Y N N
Considers Phrases? Y N Y N Y Y N Y
Required Term Operator + + N N N + N N
Prohibited Term Operator - - N N N - N N
Wildcard Expander * N N $ N N N N
Limiting Character N N N . N N N N
Results Ranking? Y Y Y Y Y Y N N
Controllable Results Ranking? Y N N Y N N N N
Booleans Allowed? Y Y Y N Y N N Y
Proximity Operators Allowed? Y(10) N Y(range) N Y(80) Y(100) N N
Subject (Directory) Searching? N Y Y Y N Y Y N
Refine Based On First Search? N Y N N Y N N N
Controllable Display Format? Y N Y Y N N N N

Advanced Searching: Tricks of the Trade. May 96. Zorn, Emanoil, Marshall, Panek.

  Alta Vista InfoSeek Lycos Open Text
Approximate # of URLs 16 million 1 million 10.75 million 1 million
Documentation Excellent; includes details and search examples for both Simple and Advanced queries. Lengthy; somewhat difficult to locate. Fair, not as thorough as it could be. Excellent, explains all features in detail.
Duplicate Detection No Yes No Yes
Field Searching Yes No No Yes, choose field limits from pull-down menus.
Indexing Full-text Full-text URLs, also choice of other parts of pages and text. Full-text
Multiple Search Sets No No No No, but allows up to four Boolean or proximity operators per query.
Nested Boolean Yes No No No
Proximity Searching Yes, ensures both terms are within ten words (or phrases if terms are enclosed in quotes). Yes Yes, choose match type (loose, fair, etc.) from pull-down menu. Yes, choose operators from pull-down menu.
Relevancy Ranking Yes, can specify which terms to weight first in retrieval display. Yes Yes Yes
Truncation Yes, can use an asterisk on word stems longer than three letters. No Yes, automatic. Yes, automatic.

Search Engine Showdown: IW Labs Tests Seven Internet Search Tools, May 96. Gus Venditto.

Web Search Engines
Alta Vista Excite InfoSeek Guide Lycos Open Text Web-
WWW Worm
Type & magnitude of contents Full text of over 21 million Web pages Full text of about 1.5 million Web pages Full text of about 1 million Web pages Summaries of over 19 million Web pages Full text of about 1.5 million Web pages Full text of about 515,000 Web pages URL's and titles of about 3 million Web sites
FTP sites included? No No No Yes Yes Yes No
Gopher sites included? No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsgroups included? Yes Yes Yes No No No No
Alta Vista Excite InfoSeek Guide Lycos Open Text Web-
WWW Worm
Can refine search results? No No Yes No Yes No No
Case-sensitive searching? Yes No Yes No No No No
Advanced /
enhanced search?
Yes No No Yes Yes No No
Uses Boolean or similar operators? Yes No No Yes* Yes Yes* Yes*
Descriptions display with results? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Alta Vista Excite InfoSeek Guide Lycos Open Text Web-
WWW Worm
Offers directory of Web sites by category? No Yes Yes Yes No No No
Saves search results as bookmark? Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No
Offers reviews of Web sites? No Yes Yes Yes No No No

Search Engines for the World Wide Web: A Comparative Study and Evaluation Methodology, July 96. Chu and Rosenthal.

Table 1 Precision (P) Chart for Three Web Search Engines

Sample QueryAlta VistaExciteLycosMean P
Sum P/#PSum P/#PSum P/#P
#910.0/101.06.0/100.68.0/8 [1]1.00.87
Mean PN/A0.78N/A0.45N/A0.550.59

Table 2 An Evaluation Methodology of Web Search Engines

Evaluation CriteriaWeb Search Engine
ChoiceAlta VistaExciteLycosYour Choice
Web Indexes
Coverage [2]16 Mil.1.5 Mil.19 Mil.
Web page indexedPartialFullPartial
Search Capability
Boolean searchYesYesYes
Proximity searchYesNoNo
Field searchYesNoNo
Concept searchNoYesNo
Retrieval Performance
RecallNot TestedNot TestedNot Tested
Response time< 3 sec.3-5 sec.About 3 sec.
# of formats213
User Effort
DocumentationGoodPoorVery good

1. Out of the 10 downloaded Web records, there are 2 duplicates.
2. All the figures were obtained in January 1996.

Searching is My Business: A Gumshoe's Guide to the Web, Dec 96. PC World Communications.

The Simple Art of Searching
Search Site Summary Pro Con
All-In-One Search Page A huge collection of search and reference tools gathered on one page. If it's a search tool, it's probably here. Page can be hard to use due to its length; you can submit only one query at a time.
Best Bet AltaVista One of the largest and fastest search engines around. Fast; large index returns many hits; most-sophisticated options for advanced searching. Poor relevancy ranking1
DejaNews Most sophisticated Usenet search engine. Lots of options with Power Search; useful filters for refining searches. Boolean search syntax only a C++ programmer could love.
Excite Fast, big search engine with site reviews and travel guides. Concept search technology does good relevancy ranking; good personalization options. Site reviews cover less of the Web than Yahoo or Magellan.
Eye on the Web Web directory with an attitude. Can be personalized; attractive graphics. Thin on content--few sites compared to other directories.
HotBot Very fast using Inktomi search engine technology. Speedy; clean interface; point-and-click construction of advanced queries. Relatively small index; creating complicated searches is laborious.
Infoseek Easy-to-use search engine, plus Web directory with site reviews. Wide scope; many helpful auxiliary tools; custom news page through InfoSeek Personal. Doesn't return as many hits as other search engines; cluttered interface.
Internet Public Library A public library for the global village. Reference desk staffed by actual humans who answer research questions for free; helpful FAQ file. Slow; graphics-intensive pages.
Lycos One of the first search engines on the Web, it has been surpassed by AltaVista and Excite. Large index covers much of the Web; A2Z directory lists and reviews many sites. Slow; hits are often out-of-date.
Magellan Family-oriented Web directory and search engine. Lots of reviewed and rated sites; green light icon indicates sites acceptable for minors; available in French and German. Slow; limited advanced query options.
MetaCrawler Fast search-consolidation engine. Rapid searches; easy-to-read hit summaries. Not as comprehensive or as configurable as SavvySearch.
Best Bet SavvySearch Search consolidator that simultaneously submits your query to several search engines. Many options for refining searches; clever system for querying related groups of search engines. Can be slow; limited to 50 hits per search engine.
Spider's Apprentice Useful guide for beginning searchers. Detailed how-to's; news and evaluations of search engines. Not a search engine itself; text-heavy.
WebCrawler Search engine plus site reviews. Easy to use; relatively fast. Smaller database of sites than other search engines.
WiseWire Innovative agent that uses artificial intelligence technology to find sites based on your preferences. U-Zines present custom content and use your feedback to return more-relevant hits. U-Zines are hard to configure; agent needs time to ""learn"" your preferences.
World Wide Web Virtual Library A volunteer effort to organize the World Wide Web by subject, with an academic bent. Where else can you find authoritative link lists on topics like solar aeronomy or mycology? No search engine; patience required when navigating subject catalog.
Yahoo Web directory combined with full-text Web searching from AltaVista. Comprehensive category listing; easy to search. Links aren't always up-to-date.
1Relevancy ranking determines the order in which search engines display results. Pages containing the most frequent occurrence of the search words are ranked highest and displayed first. More-sophisticated relevancy methods, such as the use of synonyms, are available on very few sites.