Internet Search Engines Experience Growing Pains

By Madeira, Christopher J. | National Defense, November 1998 | Go to article overview

Internet Search Engines Experience Growing Pains


Madeira, Christopher J., National Defense


Various estimates predict that by the end of this year global Internet users could number more than 100 million. New domain names are being sought at a rate of 63,000 a week and growing. Dozens of companies and many Internet service providers, in efforts to capture additional business, are providing free web sites for users to store personal homepages.

This rapid growth has enabled Internet users to share their interests, hobbies and theories with others throughout the world. While a shining example of the power of the information age, the proliferation of web sites has had a detrimental side effect on business users. It is becoming increasingly difficult to search for companies, goods, and services through conventional means.

Traditionally, searching for something on the Internet requires going to one of the big six search engines-Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, Infoseek, Excite and WebCrawler-typing in key words, then crossing one's fingers and hoping that something worthwhile is returned. The more specific one is, the more accurate are the search results.

With the increase in web sites, there has also been a rapid growth in the number of search engines The World Wide Web now contains 600 search engines on the Internet to make it easier for one to find information. These days, one needs to do a search of the search mechanisms just to begin a quest for information. When a search engine is finally chosen, one can begin the process of finding a needle in the digital haystack.

The growth of web sites has also decreased the effectiveness of major search engines There is too much information available, and it is poorly arranged. In many instances, there doesn't seem to be any organization at all. As an example of the problems with Internet searching, I performed a simple search using AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com). My goal was to find U.S. companies working as prime or sub-contractors on military aircraft prograrns. A search on military aircraft was not sufficient: 5,583,995 matches were found indicating that the category was too broad The search was not without merit-I did find a great resource for military aircraft photos. On page eight, I found a company that produces an item for actual military aircraft. Israeli Aircraft Industries, unfortunately, did not fit my criteria for a U.S. company I finally gave up that search after going through 10 pages of links to web sites.

The next step was to focus my search criteria. Narrowing down an Internet search does not always produce positive results either. Searching military aircraft contractors returns 3,025,180 matches Only five of the top 50 links, however, were actual contractors for aircraft programs Even focusing the search with more precise wording did not help much, as the number of returns never went below 3 million.

The reasons for this difficulty are varied. Many companies do not know how Internet search engines function.

There are several procedures a web designer must follow to ensure that their pages appear in all search engines Search engines often change their parameters, causing previous efforts to be nullified.

Another problem is that web designers, wanting to increase traffic to their site, submit key words that are not specific to their mission or products and services This causes pages to be listed in many searches that have little bearing on the subject. …

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