Searching the Internet

Though truly the greatest information resource in history, the internet often seems more a twisting maze than a model of tidy organization. But if you know where to look and how to use the tools, you'll probably find a lot more than you ever knew was out there! If you're new to searching for things on the net, you might want to start with a great little primer from c|net.

Searching the Web...

The World Wide Web is by far the most popular interface to information on the Internet today (you are using the Web to read this document right now). Information on the Web, however, is not always easy to track down. When you "search the Web," you are not really searching the actual Web itself; rather, you are searching a database somewhere which contains information about the Web. And so you search will only be as successful as the information in the database. Information gets into the database in two ways: it is submitted by someone or it is gathered by a "robot" or "spider" program. Still, there is no search tools which offers complete information about the Web. The Lycos database is the most complete, Alta Vista the fastest and Yahoo the most sensibly indexed. The All-in-One page is a useful tool for many kinds of Internet searches, once you know your way around the various search tools.

Searching USENET newsgroups...

The nature of USENET news is transitory. Most news servers expire articles after 7 or 14 days. But luckily, there are archives out there that keep articles long after their time on the news server has come. In addition to general archives of USENET articles, many newsgroups maintain a storehouse of their own articles.

Searching FTP sites...

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a way of transferring files across the Internet. Many Internet computers are used to store archives of software for IBM-Compatible, Macintosh and other computers. The primary tool used to search FTP archives is called Archie (so named after a mispronounciation of "archive"). Archie is not as friendly as many of the World Wide Web's search interfaces, but if you take the time to learn a few simple commands, you will find it no less powerful. There are many archie servers out there (login as "archie" once you are connected):

Searching Gopherspace...

Gopher is a system of organizing information into a hierarchical menu structure. Although more widely used in the '80s, it has been improved upon in many ways and surpassed in use by its younger sibling, the World Wide Web. Gopher servers mostly exist at universities these days. The tools we use to search Gopher are named Veronica and Jughead. Gopher Jewels allows us to find information available by Gopher via a standardized categorization scheme.

Searching FAQspace...

A FAQ is a document that offers answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Many FAQs are associated with specific USENET newsgroups, but FAQs are not limited USENET. FAQs are a good way to find concise answers written by people with relative expertise on a subject.

Searching for E-mail Addresses...

This type of search is still very unreliable, since like Web information, it is only as good as the database you are searching.