Magazine article Insight on the News

Overcoming InfoGlut.Com

Magazine article Insight on the News

Overcoming InfoGlut.Com

Article excerpt

In an effort to manage -- and capitalize on -- the online information glut, Internet entrepreneurs are developing new search technologies: `smart' search engines and specialized portals.

If you've logged onto Internet, you've tried it: searching for your own name on the World Wide Web. Chances are, you were successful. The Web's explosive growth has put nearly everyone online.

The phenomenon hasn't made it any easier to find useful information. With thousands of new sites sprouting up in cyberspace every day, even high-powered computers devoted to indexing the Net are falling behind.

"It's not getting any better" says Danny Sullivan, who runs, a Website that monitors search technology. "At least people are becoming aware of the fact that no search engine comes close to indexing the entire Web. Not a one."

While search engines -- indexers such as Infoseek that allow people to find information on the Internet -- are amazingly fast, they are inefficient and inexact. "If you want to, say, find information about `window glass,' it's almost impossible to do so using a computer-indexed engine like Altavista or Hotbot," says Sullivan. "You'll get a thousand things about `Windows' operating system software before the first mention of `window panes' pops up."

Nevertheless, "smart" search engines and broad-based portal sites caught the attention of investors in 1998, largely because the popular Yahoo! portal has been the only Web-based business (other than sex sites) to show consistent profits. A portal provides an all-purpose starting point for a person using the Internet; most are linked to a variety of shopping, travel, entertainment and news services and provide free e-mail. (Browsers, online services such as Microsoft Explorer and Netscape Navigator, come with a portal as a home page; Explorer's browser starts at the software giant's own portal site, while Navigator points to its parent company's Net Center portal.)

More recently, entrepreneurs have developed specialized "human-based" indexes to provide Yahoo!-like services for people with specific needs. Their advantage: Human-indexed portals are maintained by people rather than computers.

Industry leaders are strongly biased in favor of human-based indexing. "In their attempt to become competitive with each other, traditional search engines have, to a great extent, become homogenized," says Jim Mollshok, the president of Warner Brothers Online. …

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