OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

January 17, 2002

Internet Search Engines:
Help or Overload?

manmouse.jpg (18656 bytes)

by Albert Reid

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


Over the past 50 years the world's ability to gather record and analyze information has changed in ways unimaginable to all but the most extreme visionaries.

The evolution of computers allowed storage and analysis of information.  Suddenly we had huge stores of information easily available and shareable among computers.  A need to interconnect computers for more computing power created the ability to exchange data between large computers at universities and government installations.

Business adapted this data transfer technology for large corporations.  The same businesses then developed public access technology and at the same time that personal computers became available.  This allowed the general public to access information from external services.

The general public was now looking for information on the Internet.  Large corporations, small business and non-profits have developed web sites to provide information or sell their product or simply provide a service.  The information available is extensive but can be easily searched using Internet search engines.

Various types of search engines and search techniques are discussed in this paper.

Hyperlinks are provided so that you can visit the sites discussed in the paper.

Internet Search Engines: Help or Overload?

Everyone in this room grew up in a world where words written on paper were the basis for gathering information to keep up with the news, study, shop, prepare to travel, invest, and find out what is playing at the movies.

These words were distributed through newspapers, books, magazines, and periodicals specializing in numerous fields of interest.  We had them delivered to our homes, bought them in stores or found them in our libraries.  The information available was and still is overwhelming. Those who have the ability to access, further organize and understand this wealth of information are respected leaders and thinkers.

If you wanted to research the actions of a public figure through the use of newspaper articles you could go to the Periodical index in the library.  Then you could refine the search for the information you wanted.

This approach is rapidly changing.  Today use of the electronic word is increasing and to many it is preferable to the printed word on paper.   With a computer the right software and an Internet connection we have rapid access to an almost infinitely large information source.

This paper will review the background of how the Internet was developed and provide some examples of how search engines help us use it.

This paper viewed through our Fortnightly Club web site on the Internet provides hyperlinks to the sites I will discuss.  Just click the link and you will visit the designated site.

The Internet

According to Encarta Encyclopedia the Internet is a:

 "… computer-based worldwide information network. The Internet is composed of a large number of smaller interconnected networks called Internets. These Internets may connect tens, hundreds, or thousands of computers, enabling them to share information with each other and to share various resources, such as powerful supercomputers and databases of information. The Internet has made it possible for people all over the world to effectively and inexpensively communicate with each other. Unlike traditional broadcasting media, such as radio and television, the Internet is a decentralized system. Each connected individual can communicate with anyone else on the Internet, can publish ideas, and can sell products with a minimum overhead cost. In the future, the Internet may have a dramatic impact on higher education and business as more universities offer courses and more companies offer goods and services online."[1]

The first cooperative network known as ARPANET began to operate in 1975 as a defense project in support of US missile and nuclear programs.  The concept was almost instantly accepted in the scientific and business communities.  It eventually became known as the World Wide Web.

Worldwide the use of the Internet is growing at an incredible rate.  As of August 2001 NUA Internet surveys estimates that over 180,000,000 million users exist in North America.  The same company estimates there are 513,000,000 worldwide users.  This compares to an estimated 30,000,000 in North America in 1996 with 45,000,000 worldwide.

To access the Internet you need a computer, the appropriate software in the computer, and an Internet connection.

The Personal Computer:

The German scientist Wilhelm Schikard created the first computer in the year 1623.  It could add multiply and divide.  Evolution was gradual over the next three centuries.  World War II accelerated computer development and by 1945 an electronic digital machine know as ENIAC was built at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  The first personal computers appeared in 1975. They were simple and had limited use.  Their appeal was limited.  Some of you might remember the Altair 8800.

The big boost for the personal computer came in the late 1970s.

American computer designers Steven Jobs and Stephen Wozniak, working out of their garage, created the Apple II in 1977. The Apple II was one of the first PCs to incorporate a color video display and a keyboard that made the computer easy to use. Jobs and Wozniak later founded Apple Computer Corporation.

In 1981 International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) introduced the IBM PC. It was designed with an open architecture that enabled other computer manufacturers to create similar machines, or clones, that could also run software designed for the IBM PC. The design of the IBM PC and its clones soon became the PC standard.

The Apple Macintosh, developed in 1984, featured a graphical user interface (GUI)—a visually appealing way to represent computer commands and data on the screen. The Macintosh GUI combined icons (pictures that represent files or programs) with windows (boxes that each contain an open file or program). Information on the screen was controlled by a pointing device known as a mouse. Inspired by earlier work of computer scientists at Xerox Corporation, the Macintosh user interface made computers easy and fun to use and eliminated the need to type in complex commands.[2]

Personal Computers allowed the home and small business user to use software for multiple uses. People used them primarily for word processing, spreadsheets, databases and gaming.  Who can forget Pong and Pacman?  The next question was how to access the world of information for business and personal use.

Internet Service Providers

Along with a computer you need a connection to the Internet.  This connection usually involves a modem installed in your computer and a telephone connection through your ordinary telephone line.

A Company known as CompuServe initially created a business providing access to shared files for the general public.

" Jeffrey Wilkins founded CompuServe in 1969 … CompuServe sold time on the insurance company’s mainframe computer, allowing other companies to access and use the system via modem. This service was known as computer time-sharing. Ten years later CompuServe began offering technical support, electronic mail, and electronic discussion groups to personal-computer users via modem.

By 1989 CompuServe had more than 500,000 subscribers, making it the largest service of its kind. CompuServe expanded to countries on five continents in the late 1980s and early 1990s, teaming up with Fujitsu Limited to launch the NiftyServe online service in Japan.

In the early 1990s CompuServe’s discussion groups, or forums, gained popularity as a way for computer enthusiasts to share information and discuss ideas. The forums then branched out to include topics ranging from music and art to sports and politics. These discussion forums helped popularize online services. [3]

However the files shared by CompuServe were unique to CompuServe or were contained completely on the CompuServe network. They did not provide access to other available files.

Based on it's potential the Internet became a major growth industry.  Major growth businesses known as Internet Service Providers offered connections for computer users wishing access to the Internet.

Service Provider, company that sells computer access to the Internet, … A user buys a subscription to a service provider, which gives the user an identifying username and password and a phone number. With his or her computer and modem, the user calls, connects to, and logs on to the service provider's computer.  The user's computer then lets the service provider's computer take over, … The user can then utilize any of the tools the service provider's computer furnishes, which can give access to the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail (e-mail), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Telnet, and other Internet services.[4]

Internet Browsers:

Computers still needed software to find and read information posted on the Internet.  This software is called an Internet browser.

Browser, … a program that enables a computer to locate, download, and display documents containing text, sound, video, graphics, animation, and photographs located on computer networks. The act of viewing and moving about between documents on computer networks is called browsing. … The largest open network is the Internet, a worldwide computer network that provides access to sites on the World Wide Web.

Browsers allow users to access Web information by locating documents on remote computers that function as Web servers. A browser downloads information over phone lines to a user’s computer through the user’s modem and then displays the information on the computer. Most browsers can display a variety of text and graphics that may be integrated into such a document, including animation, audio and video.

Documents on networks are called hypertext if the media is text only, or hypermedia if the media includes graphics as well as text. Every hypertext or hypermedia document on an Internet has a unique address called a uniform resource locator (URL). Hypertext documents usually contain references to other URLs that appear in bold, underlined, or colored text. The user can connect to the site indicated by the URL by clicking on it. This use of a URL within a Web site is known as a hyperlink. When the user clicks on a hyperlink, the browser moves to this next server and downloads and displays the document targeted by the link. Using this method, browsers can rapidly take users back and forth between different sites.[5]

The National Center for Supercomputer Applications developed the first user friendly browser in 1993. It was known as Mosiac.  To stimulate interest the development team gave it away.  It emphasized the Graphic User Interface and allowed the user to navigate primarily using a mouse.

Today three major browsers compete with each other.  These are Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and America Online.  They are available at no cost and can be downloaded from the Internet. 

With access to the Internet, home computers, and browsers millions now learned how to navigate the Internet and Internet businesses boomed.

Web Sites

Information on the Internet is primarily provided through web sites.

Web Site…a file of information located on a server connected to the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW is a set of protocols and software that allows the global computer network called the Internet to display multimedia documents. Web sites may include text, photographs, illustrations, video, music, or computer programs. …

Every web site has a specific address on the WWW, called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL).  …

The content presented on a web site usually contains hypertext and icons, pictures that also serve as links to other sites. By clicking on the hypertext or icons with their mouse, users instruct their browser program to connect to the web site specified by the URL contained in the hypertext link. These links are embedded in the web site through the use of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), a special language that encodes the links with the correct URL.[6]

Companies were developed for a variety of never before heard of businesses.  They were nicknamed dot com companies.

Traditional companies and institutions also joined the bandwagon.  They developed online businesses to sell virtually everything from automobiles to wedding gifts.

News organizations including magazines, newspapers and network news teams have developed sites where you get up to the minute news if you can't wait for the televised evening news.

Airlines post flight information and rates so that you can pick your own flight and compare prices.  It is interesting to note that you often get different quotes from different sites for the same flight.  You can also buy airline tickets at Internet auctions.

Search Engines

When user friendly browsers became available you had to know an URL address for a site to find it.  An annual Internet Yellow Pages document similar to the telephone yellow pages was published.  It gave you descriptions and URL addresses for sites that you might want to visit.  You had to enter each URL and hope that the site was still at that address.

Search engines were then developed that now provide the primary basis to find what you are looking for on the Internet.

Search Engine, computer software that compiles lists of documents, most commonly those on the World Wide Web (WWW), and the contents of those documents. Search engines respond to a user entry, or query, by searching the lists and displaying a list of documents (called Web sites when on the WWW) that match the search query.[7]

 The first search engine that made surfing the Internet popular is known as YAHOO!.  Two University of Stanford students created it.  It was developed initially using volunteers to catalogue Web Sites and post them on the YAHOO! Web Site.  It offered a simple way to search a large portion of the World Wide Web and was a major reason for the rapid growth of the World Wide Web in the late 1990's.  It is still considered the most popular search engine.

According to one source over 3600 search engine are now available to the user.  They fall broadly into three categories.  These are:

·        Crawler based search in which computers visit Web Sites on a recurring basis and catalogue the information for retrieval when an individual search is initiated.

·        Human indexed search engines that receive submittals from webmasters and include those Web Sites in a specific category for the searcher to look through much like a table of contents.

·        Hybrids that combine both indexed and crawler based searches.

How do you search the Internet?

You need a computer, a web browser and an Internet connection.  Start your Internet browser and connect to the Internet.  Most browsers have a built in home or start page until you change it.  This is usually a portal page that provides news and some indexed categories for you to search.

For purposes of this discussion I will use the home page for the YAHOO! Search engine.  Its URL is  If you are connected to the Internet and click on the link it will take you to that site.

YAHOO! promotes this Web Site as an Internet portal page.  You can set your Internet browser to start at this page.  It is also a hybrid search engine.  You can enter search  words or you can use the categories shown on the page to look for the information.

It can be customized so that your particular interests are displayed.  There are over 20 different categories of information to choose from. 

The blue underlined words are called hyperlinks.  If you click them with your mouse the computer will take you to an expanded page of information and further links on that specific subject.

To use the crawler based capability of this site you can enter a specific search term in the dialog box in the top quarter of the page.  For example I have entered the search term Redlands Fortnightly.  (

I received a list of 173 hits.  At the top of the list is the Fortnightly Web Site.  The number of hits often depends on how you enter your terms.   In this case my entry allowed the search engine to select any page that contained both the words Redlands and Fortnightly.  If I were to enter the words in a manner that the search only looked for the exact phrase I would only get 42 hits.

Again the hyperlinks will take you to the other sites the search has found and let you read the content on that page.  In the larger list you find an amazing variety of references from the recent Los Angeles Times article on the Inland Empire and Redlands to a Nova Scotia Pharmaceutical Web Site that refers to a January 1920 Redlands Fortnightly paper by on premature senility by C. F. Curtis.

To use the directory or human catalogue capability of this site you can select a particular category in the outline on the page. It will lead through more specific directories.

Let us select News & Media: Newspapers: Web Directories: U.S. Newspaper Links: California (n-z): Redlands: and we can read some contents from today's Daily Facts.

You could see as we browse through the categories that the news choices are almost infinite. 

Next we will visit the search engine Google.

Google is a top choice for web searchers. It offers the largest collection of web pages of any crawler-based search engine. Google makes heavy use of link analysis as a primary way to rank these pages. This can be especially helpful in finding good sites in response to general searches such as "cars" and "travel," because users across the web have in essence voted for good sites by linking to them. The system works so well that Google has gained widespread praise for its high relevancy. Google provides web page search results to a variety of partners, including Yahoo and Netscape Search (see below). Google also provides the ability to search for images, through Usenet discussions and its own version of the Open Directory by Staff
Updated: Jan. 7, 2002

 I entered a search for duck hunting.

 I thought that at least one of our members might like this one.  In 0.15 seconds it found 219,000 applicable references.  These include commercial hunting as well as the non-profit Ducks Unlimited site.

 A word about search terms is appropriate.  Our initial search for duck hunting found sites that included either the word duck or the word hunting.  Sites with both words got the highest priority.  A second search can be made using Google's advanced search feature.  Inn this case we asked for the exact phrase "duck hunting".  In 0.28 seconds it "only" yields 49,300 results.  Obviously Search engines can be used to limit or expand the results of a search.

 We have discussed two types of search engines.  By my observation the third is maybe the most extensively used although I haven't seen any statistics on it.  These are indexed specialty sites.

 One of the most expansive I have found is the Library of Congress Site that lists Official US Executive Branch Web Sites.  The Library of Congress provides a portal to the entire federal government through: (

Locally we have a community site called

It provides information on local government, entertainment, business, history and other community activities.  Through this site you can even find what is playing at the Krikorian and view the movie previews.

This is the site that hosts our Redlands Fortnightly Club Web Site.

Select your search terms

This paper can only give a brief overview of the Internet and its search engines.  The information is larger than any library in the world and can be searched in fractions of a second. If you are not careful with the selection of a search engine and use of search terms you can receive millions of results. 

For example a search for Jerry Lewis our congressman entered as Jerry Lewis yields 749,000 hits.  Most of them are for the entertainer Jerry Lewis.  If you add an additional term to your search for example Jerry Lewis congress you reduce the number of hits to 41,200.  While some information on the entertainer remains most of the information concerns the congressman.  It includes official sites such as his official government site and watchdog sites.  You can find his biography, legislative record, campaign fund status and personal financial disclosures.

You can also use Boolean terms in your search with some search engines.  For example Redlands and California not Australia.

Select your search engine.

 I have only used the two of the most popular search engines in this paper.  There are many with different characteristics and specialties.  One useful Web Site to help you select your search engine is at

 A good source to find search engines is

 Read the instructions for advanced search published with the search engine.  These instructions will help you group your search terms and eliminate useless or non-relevant results.  Each search engine uses different symbols and aids to set up searches.  This web site called "Search Engine Features for Searchers" gives an overview of how commands vary from engine to engine.

 Further Thoughts

 Run your search on several search engines.  Each search engine has different searching techniques and has crawled or indexed different parts of the World Wide Web.  If you are not satisfied with your results with one search engine try another.  You will be surprised at the differences.

 Check to see how often the web site you are visiting is kept up to date.  Some don't appear to be updated for years.  Others are selling products and may not be giving you the entire story.  New sites are good for researching recent news but have not brought their old content online. 

 There are excellent medical web sites.  The Merck Medical Manual is available on line.

The national Institute of Health provides extensive information.

One of my favorites for basic information is WEBMD.

 The best way to learn about the Internet is to explore it.  Enjoy!

 Now what do you think that people most often search for?  Here are some Web Sites that give us an answer.

About the Author

The author retired from the County of San Bernardino after 21 years in various executive positions. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1961.  After graduation he joined the US Air Force and was assigned to The Air Force Rocket Propulsion Laboratory where he worked on the development of advanced rocket propulsion systems.  After 5 1/2 years service he moved to Redlands where he worked for Lockheed Propulsion Company as a systems engineer.

He has worked with several community non-profit organizations as a volunteer and officer of the organization including the San Bernardino county Museum Association, the Boy Scouts of America and local American Diabetes Association chapter

He and his wife Kathy own a Physician Recruiting Company that depends heavily on the Internet for new clients and new candidates.  He maintains an active interest in how new technology evolves and how it can be used.

[1]"Internet," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[2]"Personal Computer," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[3]"CompuServe Corporation," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[4]"Service Provider," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[5]"Browser," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[6]"Web Site," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[7]"Search Engine," Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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