Magazine article Online

Dating on the Web

Magazine article Online

Dating on the Web

Article excerpt

In 2002, Genie Tyburski noted that "It's Tough to Get a Good Date with a Search Engine" (http://searchengine watch.com/showPage.html?page=2160061). Conducting a date-range search with a web search engine has never been straightforward. In fact, one of the biggest challenges has been identifying the true date of a webpage. For content that includes an unequivocal date field, such as news stories, blog posts, and discussion forum entries, limiting a search by date is intuitive--and this is supported in most specialized search tools. However, date searching works only because the date is an integral part of the content.

What about plain old webpages? The web was originally conceived as a resource sharing tool, so the date of an individual webpage was never considered to be a critical piece of information. As a result, determining just what a webpage's "date" is can be difficult. Is it the copyright date on the page? Is it the date that a search engine spider indexed the page? The date that the file was originally created? The time stamp that the server assigned to the page?

Date searching on the web, while not always reliable, can be useful in certain situations. When I am monitoring an issue for a client, I may want to limit my search to pages that have been newly spidered. Alternatively, a client recently asked me to find images from the 2004 presidential election, so I had to find pages that have remained stagnant since 2004.

None of the major search engines encourage date-range searching, but there are some techniques that at least provide help in finding pages that are new or, alternatively, several years old.

On Google's advanced search page, there is a pull-down menu for limiting the search to "Web pages first seen in the" past 24 hours, week, month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, or past year. However, an examination of the search results page URL shows that you have more options than those listed in the pull-down menu. The date-limit option shows up in the URL as &as_qdr=xN, where the value of x is days (d), weeks (w), or years (y), and N is the number of days, weeks, or years by which you want to limit your search. So, for example, you can edit the search results page URL by adding &as_qdr=w5in order to limit the results to pages spidered in the last 5 weeks.

But what if you want to limit your search to webpages initially spidered 3 or 4 years ago to eliminate newer pages? …

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