CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, October 30, 2000

Change unsettling, yet essential

Last week, UOP and the Stockton community were most fortunate to have John Chambers, CEO and President of Cisco Systems, as a guest speaker. His message was essentially that change in the Internet world takes place often and at a rapid pace.  He spoke of Internet years as we do about "dog years". Those who keep pace with the high-speed changes will succeed, while those who maintain the status quo will be left behind. 

As a creature of habit, I realize I'm reluctant to change since I enjoy the comfort of a predictable routine, but I too must shift with the changing tides if I hope to stay on the cutting edge.  Such was the case when I recently changed my default home page and favorite search engine from AltaVista to Google.  Now this may seem trite and no-big-deal to many, but it was adjustment away from routine to unfamiliarity.

AltaVista has been a dear friend and reliable search engine for many years. It's been my default home page since it was owned by Digital at www.altavista.digital.com. Since then, AltaVista has been owned by Compaq and is now a majority holding of CMGI, Inc. Google, a relative newcomer, has moved into the forefront as the most comprehensive and reliable search engine on the web, by all accounts. Google is a privately held company founded by two Stanford Ph. D. candidates with an impressive list of investors, including Stanford University, and the co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Search engines are automated data gathering entities that constantly roam the Internet looking for new pages and revised content.  A "spider" or "crawler" moves through the published web pages, reading content and indexing keywords for inclusion in the database. The data is compiled in a huge directory that people can then search based on keywords or phrases.  Certainly AltaVista and Google aren't the only search engines.  Excite, Lycos, WebCrawler, Fast, Go, Inktomi and HotBot are popular indexes as well.

While all search engines operate on the same principals, crawling, gathering and indexing, each search engine differs in how the data is processed and returned as results to the user.  That's why the same search on two different engines often produces differing results. 

Google is currently the leader among search engines in most indexed pages on the Internet, boasting over 1 billion.  Their default search parameters differ from other engines, ensuring more accurate matches. This is a plus for novices unfamiliar with more advanced search techniques. Google recently won Wired magazine's "Most Intelligent Agent" award and is also the underlying search engine for the Yahoo web directory.

Another type of search tool that accesses multiple search engines at once, is called a metasearch engine. Metacrawler is a reliable metasearch tool that's been around for long time, but Ixquick is the latest metasearch offering that's gaining speed and acclaim. Ixquick boasts superior performance and reliability when searching multiple engines at once.

I still feel a bit like a traitor each time I access the Internet and Google loads, instead of AltaVista, but in my own random side-by-side search, Google was more accurate and more reliable overall in it's search results.  To change your own home page preferences in Internet Explorer, choose Tools, Internet Options, and then type the URL of desired start page. In Netscape Navigator, choose Edit, Preferences to select a new home page location. For AOL users, chose My AOL, Preferences, WWW to specify your home page.

For more information: www.google.com  www.altavista.com www.metacrawler.com  www.ixquick.com

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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