Magazine article Information Today

Jasco's Internet Cheers and Jeers for 1998

Magazine article Information Today

Jasco's Internet Cheers and Jeers for 1998

Article excerpt

The best developments on the Internet in 1998 included the debut of very talented new companies and intelligent adaptation of stalwart products to the Web. The worst developments came from longtime players via illconceived and badly implemented products and strategies.

CHEERS for the ...

Best pay-as-you-go Web service to Northern Light (NL) for its eponymous service to users who need recent (maximum 4-5 years old) full-text articles from several hundred core academic, research, and professional journals (out of the 4,500 total sources) in sciences and social sciences. The search is free, and even viewing the abstracts is free. The articles cost between $1 and $4, and I found many very long (15- to 35-page) articles from top library and information science and technology journals that cost $1 apiece.

The search software, which acts both as a Web-wide search engine and the NL local search engine, is powerful and intuitive, and clustering of results into folders by topic, language, source, etc. is an excellent idea.

Some CEOs of traditional online services ganged up on the CEO of NL and were rolling over with laughter at Online World '98 for digging up a pamphlet with a funny title from NL's collection (see "Six CEOs: Point and Counterpoint," page 68 in the November 1998 issue of Information Today).

The customers of those same CEOs' traditional services, however, are less amused when they realize that they often can't even get a search started without plunking down a "cover charge" and paying by the minute just for browsing and not finding what they want. Nor do they find it hilarious that they are charged for displaying an abstract, even a mere bibliographic citation, and that they pay their traditional vendor double or triple the NL price for the full text of an article available on both services.

Chauffeured and pampered CEOs and presidents of traditional information providers will have to learn to park their own cars, carry their own bags, and place their own phone calls as the clients they have taken for granted take their business elsewhere. We'll see who ends up laughing all the way to the bank.

Best-value subscription-based Web service to Infonautics for its consumer database, the Electric Library. For less than $10 a month users can search and print without limit from a database that has hundreds of mainstream journals, magazines, newspapers, and TV and radio transcripts with full text, and with far more legible output than from traditional online services.

Best "Webified" database suite to Responsive Database Services, a company that commissioned the Web design services of a third party to bring out the best in its excellent databases-under the obvious direction of RDS's president, Dick Harris, whose fingerprints can also be recognized on the Web versions.

Best Java-based search software to Ovid, a company that has consistently been on the cutting edge of technological innovation. Ovid did it again with the first Java retrieval software on a large-scale professional information service-which has the best browsing, searching, term-mapping, and output options (and should really implement cross-database searching).

Best JavaScript-based search software to SilverPlatter. This company proved the viability of using JavaScript even for such sophisticated retrieval operations as it offers with its databases. (Many of those databases, I might add, are not available elsewhere.) WebSPIRS 4.0 is a most intuitive search engine, sporting an excellently designed interface (with the exception of the limit options and browsable index choices).

Most promising new professional search tool to KnowledgeCite, a newcomer to the professional online service arena, for its eponymous service offering mapping of users' queries into multiple thesauri-something that not even Ovid, the best term-mapping software, has done so far. The algorithm is not perfect yet (see "Peter's Picks and Pans" in the January 1999 issue of Database magazine) but is very close to the nirvana of controlled vocabulary searching. …

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