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Article by Mohan Babu


Is Internet the ultimate search tool?

Despite the dotcom debacle, the Internet continues to have a lot of potential as a vast repository of information. MOHAN BABU writes that people however make the mistake of assuming that the Internet is a library which has answers to all their queries

The dotcom mania has come and gone but the Internet still remains a vibrant tool in the hands of technologists. How useful is the tool? Consider this: If I faced some problem while installing Iplanet webserver on an NT box, or a weird Java compiler problem, the first thing I’d do is to look up the manual and then type the error or keywords on to Google and presto, hundreds of entries would pop up. Some even with the exact problem that I faced, and a few with resolutions posted by eager coders. A few minutes of search with the right keywords can yield a wealth of information. I just took the example of Google since it is almost the de facto search engine, and by far the highest ranked one out there.

Search engines are generally windows to the Web, a place where most of us go to look for information, sort through catalogues and look for listings of websites. Search engines use software robots to survey the Web and build their databases. Web documents are retrieved and indexed. When you enter a query at a search engine website, your input is checked against the search engine’s keyword indices. The best matches are then returned to you as hits. There are two primary methods of text searching—keyword and concept. Keyword searching is the most common form of text search on the Web. Most search engines do their text query and retrieval using keywords. Essentially, this means that search engines pull out and index words that are believed to be significant. Words that are mentioned towards the top of a document and words that are repeated several times throughout the document are more likely to be deemed important. Unlike keyword search systems, concept-based search systems try to determine what you mean, not just what you say. In the best circumstances, a concept-based search returns hits on documents that are about the subject/theme you’re exploring, even if the words in the document don’t precisely match the words you enter into the query.

Even with the advances in search engine technologies, people frequently get frustrated because they think of the Internet as a vast library while the fact remains that it is not a library at all. I don’t intend to deny the fact that the Internet is definitely one of the largest repositories of information available to us. However unlike a library, information and data on the Web is not catalogued or even ordered. Individual sites and portals maintained by individuals, groups, companies, governments or organisations are responsible for content, formatting, and layout of data. Because of the frustration that people face while searching for critical information, a number of Web portals and search engine companies have added sections offering “human searchers” that involve people searching for information and getting it for a fee.

Google recently introduced an answer service titled Anyone wanting information that they are unable or unwilling to search, can go to the portal and post their query for a fee. Google Answers gives individuals access to more than 500 approved researchers. Starting at $2.50 per question they will do your research for you. Google’s is not the first or the only portal to offer this service. Other big players include,, and’s experts. Surprisingly, not many Indian players have jumped on to this bandwagon. The closest we come to this model in India is BPO outsourcing, where individual outsourcing companies provide “information” and e-mail answering services to their clients.




About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    For FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America, visit the Ask-A-Desi section

    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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