With advanced linguistics, categorisation techniques, and support for 49 languages, AlltheWeb combines a comprehensive, fresh, and fully integrated search resource with one of the largest news resources on the internet. AlltheWeb's technology also manages to search Adobe Acrobat PDF files.
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By Paul Taylor
Financial Times; Aug 13, 2002
In 1995, scientists at Digital Equipment's research lab in Palo Alto, California, devised a way to store every word of every page on the entire internet in a fast, searchable index. They dubbed their "super spider" software "AltaVista" and in the eight days after it was set loose on the web it found a then-astonishing 30m web pages and indexed 16.5m of them.
AltaVista was the first searchable, full-text database on the web and transformed my life. Hordes of web directors, search engines and meta-search engines (which combine searches using several search engines) followed.
I dabbled with many of them but remained loyal to AltaVista for several years until I was seduced by a newcomer called Northern Light. But when, in January, Northern Light began charging for most searches, I switched to Google and, like most other users, instantly became a fan.
MSN, Yahoo (powered in part by Google), Lycos and Ask Jeeves all have their good points, but Google remains one of the best - if not the best - free search engine around. The proof is in the pudding - Google's home page attracts 150m "hits" a day.
I love Google for many reasons including its simple interface, ease of use, independence and accuracy. I also like Google because it is honest - it clearly differentiates between paid-for links and those ranked by relevance and does not plague me with pop-up and banner advertisements.
What is more, the Google toolbar allows you quickly to use the search engine from any website, without returning to the Google home page to begin another search. It takes seconds to install from the home page (www.google.com), and then automatically appears with the Internet Explorer toolbar.
Let me offer one more reason why Google deserves its star ranking. If you follow a link to a page that has vanished into the ether, clicking the grey "cached" button next to each listed address lets you view information you would have missed otherwise.
Recently, however, I have been looking at a new search engine touted by some as a "Google killer". Its name - AlltheWeb - is rather uninspired but don't let that put you off. AlltheWeb is impressive.
AlltheWeb is a showcase for search and filter technology developed by an Oslo-based company called Fast Search & Transfer and grew out of academic research and development from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. What distinguishes AlltheWeb from many rivals and helps make it a serious pretender to the Google crown is its depth and the timeliness of its data. In the arcane world of internet search engines size really does matter - but so does relevance.
When AlltheWeb's redesigned service was launched a few months ago, it claimed to be the most comprehensive search engine having indexed 2,095,568,809 web pages compared with the 2,073,418,204 pages listed on Google's home page on the same day. (As of last Thursday though, Google had regained the lead, listing 2,469,940,685 web pages versus AlltheWeb's 2,112,188,990 documents.)
Perhaps more importantly, AlltheWeb claims to be the internet's freshest index with a refresh cycle - the gap between site visits - of between seven and 11 days.
The company takes the information from these 2bn-plus web pages and integrates it with breaking news from thousands of news sources and hundreds of millions of multimedia, video, software and compressed MP3 sound files, all in a single search result page.
AlltheWeb's technology also manages to search Adobe Acrobat PDF files - the favoured format for official documents and many other forms. With advanced linguistics, categorisation techniques, and support for 49 languages, AlltheWeb combines a comprehensive, fresh, and fully integrated search resource with one of the largest news resources on the internet.
Like Google, AlltheWeb presents its search results in a clean, uncluttered format. It clearly identifies paid-for links and offers a set of context-sensitive "fast topics" and tools to narrow down a search.
So how does AlltheWeb stack up against Google? I conducted a number of informal tests including searching for a topic, "Frankenstein", the answer to the question "Who is the US Treasury secretary?" and myself "Paul Taylor at the Financial Times".
Google returned the most accurate and relevant information with the fewest keystrokes - but it was a close contest. I would rate both services pretty much equal on the basis of their results when asked about "Frankenstein".
Both gave a correct answer to question two - "Who is the US Treasury secretary?" Where AlltheWeb failed most was when it was asked to find references to myself - sadly the service managed to find references only to my more famous namesake - the choreographer - so I do not think I will be switching search engines again yet.
For me, Google has two simple "killer" features that keep it at the front of the pack. The first is the toolbar, which I use all the time and is a real time saver. The second is the ability to search within a search - one of the options listed at the bottom of a page of search results that I find almost always enables me to narrow down the search and get the answer I am looking for.
Now if only Google could tell me how to become as rich and famous as that other Paul Taylor.