Monday morning. The boss wants to review your presentation in two hours. You need some drop-dead factoids for your opener, and you know the stats are on the Internet. But how do you find them? There are so many search engines to choose from, and so little time.
We could have charted the hits and misses of the prime-time search engines. But who needs another chart? Instead, we found the Web's most comprehensive list of search engine comparisons, at Calafia Consulting's Search Engine Watch. The site is packed with reviews and ratings of the major search engines, culled from computer publications such as "NetGuide," "Searcher Magazine," "PC Magazine," "PC Computing," and "Internet World." Before you start your next search, think about which engine is best suited to deliver useful results. Search Engine Watch will help you decide. Four highlights:
AltaVista http://www.altavista.digital.com is fast and thorough, but its tendency to return irrelevant links got it a thumbs-down from many computer magazines. Its new Live Topics feature, a map that suggests ways to narrow your search, might help solve this problem. Just click "Refine" after your initial search.
Excite http://www.excite.com received top marks from "PC World," "NetGuide," and several other publications. It tends to return the most narrowly targeted results, and frequent updates keep the hits fresh. Its "concept searching" looks for sites that are related to your key words, even if the sites don't actually include them.
HotBot http://www.hotbot.com won "PC Computing's" recent "Search Engine Challenge." Though it has some search-phrasing difficulties, such as the inability to search by the root of a word, HotBot is good for searching by region or date.
Infoseek http://www.infoseek.com , Excite's strongest challenger, won "MacWorld's" highest rating. It's particularly good at finding company news and profiles through the Company Capsules feature (under "Stocks/Companies").
Coordinates: Search Engine Watch, http://www.searchenginewatch.com/reviews.html
A version of this article appeared in the October/November 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.