September 2006 Archive
Yesterday, A9 had a major redesign of its site along with a major accompanying loss of features. The A9 announcement notes that they have "redesigned the A9.com website to make it easier and quicker to discover information from more sources." It has more of a Web 2.0 look and feel, and I think they have achieved a more usable site. The databases are grouped together in the left column and are customizable. Searchers can build their own groups from the more than 400 source databases. Each column (one per database) now features continuous scrolling (like the beta of Live search used to offer and the Live Image search database still does).
From the Official Google Webmaster Central blog come this post on How search results may differ based on accented characters and interface languages. This highlights a change in the way Google handles diacritics and gives a good overview of how it still varies depending on the search interface language chosen.
The Google Blog, in a post entitled "Find the wealth in your library" talks about the expansion of links to national library union catalogs at Google Books. More than 15 union catalogs are includes, not just Open WorldCat. It is not always easy to connect to each of these union catalogs, and I still find plenty of records without a "Find this book in a library" link, even when the books are listed in WorldCat. Gary makes some pointed comments as well.
Here is another example of a search I ran today where several search engines failed to give me the answer I needed. In particular, I was looking for a cached copy of a Web page, since the page was unavailable when I tried to view it. Three search engines failed to have any record of the page, but fortunately, that last one I tried had the page indexed and a cached copy available for me to view. The winner? Live Search. The losers? Ask, Yahoo!, and Google.
What is a search engine to do when a searcher puts a URL in the search box? After years of giving a single match with links to other options, Google has done an about face. Now, enter a URL and Google gives results for pages that match the URL as a text phrase. To get to the old display, just use the
info: prefix before the URL. See Matt Cutts' more detailed explanation for why they made the change. It looks like this changed earlier this month, since it was notice on Sept. 1 at Digital Point forums and Search Engine Roundtable.
On Monday, when Live Search launched out of beta, MSN Search still worked as a separate site. Now, all the MSN Search links I have tried now just redirect to Live Search. So it looks to me like MSN Search has been retired in favor of Live Search. Even MSN sites in Canada and the UK redirect results at least to Live Search, although I would be curious to hear if some people still get MSN Search with the old design.
Remember Northern Light with its side folders and the combination of a Web search engine with commercial articles? It's back, in part. With some bad ownership changes, the public Web search engine was retired in 2002. Bought back by some of the original owners, it moved forward as a fee-based service only. Today, they announced their return with public access to their Business Research Engine. "Search full-text articles from 1,400 trade journals and 22,000 business websites. A total of over 100 million pages of business research content."
Live Search, Microsoft's upgrade to MSN Search, has now officiallly launched out of beta. Introduced back in March, the version then included the ability to scrol through the first 200 or more results. That option is gone (except in the Image and Academic databases), but the whole interface does work more quickly and smoothly. Other significant changes as Live moves out of beta includes the addition of the advanced search form from MSN Search, where it was called Search Builder. The default list of other databases below the search box are Web, Images, News, Local, and QnA. The QnA, or Questions and Answers, is a new, free, public question and answer service. After running a search, these databases are listed in tabs near the top along with a "More" link that includes various additional databases that are still in beta, including Windows Live Search Academic, Video, Feeds, and Products. The Macros link or creating specialized search subsets is also under this More tab. The Image search now has a scratch pad for creating personal collections of images. Suggested related searches show up on the right above the ads.
One major absence from Live Search that was one of the great benefits of MSN Search is the link to the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia. On MSN Search, Encarta was one of the tabs at the top. Encarta makes some articles available free on the Web while others are only available for those who paid for a subscription. When an article is found on MSN Search that is part of Encarta, users get a two-hour free pass for viewing even the fee-based content. In addition, every time a new search from MSN Search leads to another Encarta article, another free pass (with a full two hours) is available.
So is the free access to Encarta gone? With a little search ingenuity, the free pass is still available via Live Search. Just search for
encarta plus some subject terms or
site:encarta.msn.com plus the query terms. Go to any of the links and note the yellow bar on the top that shows the free pass still works on searches from Live.
The sharp-eyed folks in the WebMasterWorld forums noticed that Google has posted information about their subsite results, which they call Sitelinks, and how and why they appear in the results below certain site listings. See the image below for an example of these subsite links.
Google News announces the launch of a News archive search which is linked on the main Google News page (upper right). Instead of being an archive of what Google News has crawled in the past, beyond the 30 day limit of regular Google News, this new archive search is a combination of fee and free content. The fee based content comes from Newsbank, AccessMyLibrary.com, ThomsonGale, Factiva, HighBeam, LexisNexis and others. No list of news sources or vendors is available. Some sources are subscription-only while others offer pay per article options.
Even more interesting is the report of the availability of some of these scanned books from with the University of Michigan's online catalog, MIRLYN. Some of the government publications which Google only shows in snippet view are available in full text via Michigan. The problem is to find these. Try going to MIRLYN, click on the Advanced Search link near the top, change the Format limit to "electronic resources," and then you might find one. However this does not just limit to Google. Try adding "Michigan Digitization Project" as a "Words Anywhere" and look for records with links both to "Google Online" and "U-M Online." The latter gives the Michigan version.
With all the success and growth that Yahoo! Answers has seen, it should be no surprise that Microsoft is now trying a similar product: LiveQnA (beta). Their blog post announces a QnQ blog, tagging, integration with Live Spaces, voting, email and RSS updates, and a forums. It will be interesting to see if this has similar success to Yahoo!'s endeavor.