Searching The Web

The Internet is a rich resource of information about almost any topic you can imagine.There are literally millions of documents available to you. The tricky part is finding them.

If you think of the web as a library full of books, you would assume that those books would be filed in a logical and orderly manner, but this is not the case.

Fortunately, several organizations have attempted to index this massive collection of material for us. In a library we have card catalogues and reference librarians. On the web we have Search Engines and Directories. Whether in a library, or on the web, The key to a successful search is knowing how to phrase our question.


Searching With WebTV

On the top row of the WebTV keyboard resides a key labeled "search". Pressing this key causes a search engine to appear on your screen. You'll notice that it say's "Powered By Infoseek". Infoseek is one of the major search engines on the web. On the left of the screen is a link that say's HELP. If you plan to use this search engine much, it's definately worth your time to check out the HELP suggestions. I won't bother repeating them here. On the search page you'll also find a text box. Type a few keywods into this box and hit the search button. The next screen you see will be a list of web pages and their descriptions. By clicking on the title of a page, you'll jump to that page. If you don't like it, you can push the "back" button on your keyboard, and come back to the list of search results.

Infoseek is not the only search engine you can use. It's just the only one WebTV Provides a link to. You can access most of the others by typing their name into the navigation box that pops up when you press the GOTO key.


Using Yahoo

Yahoo is what is known as a Directory. Unlike a search engine, every single web site listed on Yahoo has been viewed by an actual person, and placed in a relavent category.

You may search for a key word or phrase on Yahoo, but Yahoo is primarily set up in a Directory Format with Categories and Sub-categories.

The advantage of using Yahoo is that your search will return more relevant sites. The trash and red herrings have been filtered out.

The downside is that Your search won't be nearly as broad and all encompassing as it would be on a search engine.



AltaVista is a very powerful search engine which attempts to index the entire web. They don't quite succeed, but they have a huge database.

When using AltaVista, you provide a keyword, keywords, or a phrase, and AltaVista will attempt to list every single document with those words. The first 100 results will hopefully be the most relevant.

It's important to be as specific as possible with your search phrase or words.

For example, if I'm thinking about buying a home, and I want to see some real estate listings, I might type the words "Real Estate" into the search box. AltaVista's search would return over 1 million web pages with the words "Real Estate".

Obviously, I don't have time to wade through all those web pages, and I'm really only interested in buying a house in Iowa, so I refine my search. I do this by adding the word "Iowa".

For "Iowa Real Estate", Altavista gives me 646 results. I can refine this further if I wish by adding more keywords. Asking the question as specifically as you can is crucial to a successful search on AltaVista.


Other Search Engines

I've detailed how to use three search engines here, but there are a multitude of search engines and directories available to you. I suggest you find two or three you like and learn to use them well. Each is a little different from the others, and has it's strengths, weaknesses, and peculiarities.