November 2006 Archive
Remember when the pay for answers Google Answers service launched how some in the information business thought it could spell the end of reference librarians? Today, Google announced that they are stopping accepting questions and will eventually close down any more answers by the end of 2006. Google will keep the database, which is a good thing since there are some very useful answers within it. But it is ironic to see the demise of this fee-based service, which seemed to make the answers something less than minimum wage and cost the questioners a relatively minor fee. At the same time, Yahoo!'s newer, free answers service has been booming. While the answers are typically much shorter and less well researched, the Yahoo! service seems to have struck a chord with Internet users. After less than a year, Yahoo! reports that their service is available in 18 countries and 8 languages and that Yahoo! Answers has 60 million unique users worldwide with 160 million answers. Just within the US and English-speaking countries, they have 14.4 million unique users and 60 million answers.
Last week I finally experienced the experimental Google user interface (UI) that has the links to other databases displayed on the left side instead of along the top of the search box. Take a look at the first screenshot that shows the top of a regular results page. It includes links to Images, Maps, News, Groups, and more (which just links straight to the More Google Products page instead of being an Ajax pop-up). Note that Groups is still listed instead of the new default of Video. Also, there is no "Web" link, which since we are already in the Web database, makes sense.
You will only notice this once you click on a result, and in particular on a Full View or Limited Preview result. The Snippet view has changed a bit with the addition of 'Key words and phrases' at the top and a 'Contents' section and some other additional information depending on the book record.
But take a look at a Full View or Limited Preview record to see significantly more differences. The left frame lets the reader scroll down from one page to the next without clicking on a next page link. Google has finally added a zoom option. Many records also have a list of 'Related Books.'
I've added a couple additional alerting services to my Current Awareness and Alerts Page. Trackle is another online commercial product with a free trial while TrackEngine seems to let you track up to five pages for free.
But the most interesting one was suggested to me by a founder of FollowThatPage. He mentioned using WebAgent, a site I had not seen before. This Dutch alert tool (with English and Dutch interfaces) is not only free, but it include the ability to make tracked pages public. Look through the Home Categories to see some examples of publicly tracked sites. The public community element reminds of Web 2.0 software and yet the site seems to have a more classic 1.0 design. Most of the tracked pages are .nl ones, but it is still an interesting concept.
Whatever was causing the problem with the site search for Canada that Gwen noted, I am happy to report that it has been fixed. I received an email from SÃ©bastien Richard at Exalead reporting that all the top level domains should work with the
site: prefix now. At least on my tests of
site:in and a few others, it does seem to be working correctly. Kudos to Exalead for making the fix! I've updated my Exalead review.
Ever heard of HereUAre, which has "Over 10 billion pages indexed?" Try a search and you may recognize the results as coming from Gigablast. So what's the connection? This leads to a rather strange story of a vanished press release that I've been researching on and off for the past month or so. Here's the story.
In trying to update my site awhile back, I came across one page that linked to a June 19, 2006 press release from Gigablast about a database size increase to 10 billion and a new "report as spam" feature. The linked page (beta.gigablast.com/prnew.html) was no longer live. I did find a cached copy of the page, from Sept. 10, 2006 only at MSN Search. (No cached copy were available on Oct. 8 at Google, Yahoo!, Ask, or the Wayback machine.) Fortunately, when I came across, I FURLed the MSN Search cached copy of the page. In checking today, I could not find a cache or link at any of the main search engines. Since FURL saves a copy of the page, I have the text from the press release. I'm glad I did, since I could not find a cached copy of the page at Live or any of the other search engines today when I checked.
To summarize the release, Gigablast now has a database with over 10 bilion pages, and here is where it calls it the "HereUAre search engine." It also mentions a beta (no longer available), "multi-language support, real-time indexing, and improved spam control." One part of the spam control is that at the end of each search result, Gigablast now has a link labeled "[report as spam]." Click that link on to report an entry as spam. The Gigablast site does not have the 10 billion claim on it, although it does continue to have the [report as spam] links. The HereUAre site does have the 10 billion claim and the spam reporting. It also makes it sound as if the search technology is its own, with no mention of Gigablast. I was also surprised that I found no mention of HereUAre, the Gigablast 10 billion, or the spam report at other search engine news sites. So, I'm posting what I've found out, and in the interest of sharing information, is a copy of MSN's cached copy of the press release.
Flash Earth uses Flash to deliver both satellite and aerial imagery from a variety of providers including Google Maps, Microsoft Virtual Earth, Yahoo! Maps, Ask, and NASA. Click the Flash Earth header to get started and then try a search for a specific area. Zoom to an appropriate level, and then simply click the radio buttons in the upper right to compare the imagery. It is not the fastest application, but it certainly makes it easier to compare the various geographic search tools and the type of imagery that each has to offer.
SearchMash, Google's experimental search engine, has been updated. The Ajax re-arranging of results (which was fun but seemed otherwise useless) is gone. Now results from different databases are displayed in their own part of the page. A screenshot and discussion are available from Google Operating System. Note the boxes for Web, images, and Wikipedia along with the top box for suggested alternative searches.
Follow That Page is a new alert service for tracking changes to Web pages. Free registration is required for use and allows tracking of up to 100 pages. It checks for changes once a day (at 11PM PST). It includes options for Ignoring Numbers, Reporting Additions, and Reporting Removals. The reporting email shows the changes of a page. A paid version is being developed that would allow more frequent checking and more than 100 pages. My Current Awareness and Alerts page has been updated with that addition.
With the transition from MSN Search to Live, Microsoft has not introduced the ability to create Live Search boxes to place on your own Web site. This site offers a basic search box and an advanced. The advanced includes the ability to specify that Live only search certain Web sites or use a specific search macro.
Mick O'Leary has an excellent overview "Google Book Search Has Far to Go" for his Nov. column in Information Today. In particular, he compares Google Books Search to Amazon's Search Inside the Book and notes that
. . . Amazonâs feature has several critical advantages over Book Search. The most important is that Amazon has the latest books; Book Search does not. Perhaps because of differing licenses with the publishers, Book Search is often several years behind; Amazon has the latest releases and also lists forthcoming titles. For example, Amazonâs feature has the latest books by Pat Buchanan, James Lee Burke, Ann Coulter, Jeffrey Deaver, Tom Friedman, and Robert B. Parker; Book Search does not (and is usually two or three books behind with these popular authors). This seriously devalues Book Search as a tool for finding, buying, or researching books.