Web Search Guide

See sections on featured sites, search engine syntax, and search strategies.
The Internet is bulging with information and opportunities for communication. Fortunately, there are tools to help us find what we need.

Resource Types

Information on every conceivable subject can be found in some form through the Web. The information may have a commercial and promotional slant, or carry academic credentials, or be the product of very personal and idiosyncratic taste. The Web is ubiquitous and it is cheap.

There are many resource types:

  • A website constructed from webpages is the most common form. Companies and organizations build very elaborate websites for delivering information to their publics.
  • Databases provide specialized information such as statistics, economic data, reports, articles, public records, or patents. Much can be obtained for free, some cost money.
  • Videos flood the Internet, the work of professionals and amateurs in the form of film clips, news stories, lectures, ads, personal stories, and amusing flicks about pets.
  • Audio files and podcasts capture musical bands, readings, radio shows, lectures and lessons.
  • Images flourish through web-based services for personal online photo albums, in addition to the collections at museums and galleries as well as other special collection repositories.
  • Maps give pinpoint detail on directions to places, local services, aerial views of streets, street-level views of the buildings. MapQuest was the first, but many favour Google Maps with streetviews. There are also views of the entire globe from Google Earth and Microsoft’s Bing Maps.
  • Weblogs (blogs) are daily journals of comments. This may be the dominant form of website design today. These usually have very personal bent but some are professional in manner and content and have become key information resources.
  • Wikis encourage people to work together to create content. Wikipedia is the world’s largest encyclopedia.
  • Microblogs allow people to send out brief text updates or single photos or videos. Twitter is the microblog king and is used by news providers, companies, and the guy on the street.
  • Social networks like Facebook and Google Plus are used for connecting with friends, colleagues, and groups.
  • RSS feeds deliver news headlines and blog postings to the desktop.
  • Software downloads are available from vendors.
  • Mailing lists are a subscription-based way (albeit somewhat old fashioned now) for participating in discussion via email.
  • Instant messaging, chat, and online conferences bring people together in real-time. These have video and audio capabilities.

The Web is the structure that holds all of this together, and is the interface for us to the Internet. We can read today’s news, send e-mail, talk with friends, buy our books and music and anything else, do our banking, watch film clips, find customers and sell services, and pursue all manner of personal interests over the Web..

Search engines like Google and Bing index much of this content and are able to match your query with pages. Headline news is supplied through news search engines and aggregators. Vertical search gives us access to all media forms. Through social search we can also see results influenced by what friends have looked at.

In Web Search Guide we’ll tour the main tools and talk about search techniques.