What is a search engine?

Search engines are powerful Internet tools that make it easier to find what you are looking for on the Web.

The phrase "search engine" is used loosely to cover true search engines, directoriies and metacrawlers.

Directories are huge databases organized in categories and updated by humans. Directories work best when you're looking for general categories of information, since they tend to retrieve the most relevant and popular sites by category.

"Real" search engines use software programs called "spiders" that "crawl" the Web, searching out new sites, which are then indexed in the search engine's database. Choose search engines when you're looking for information concerning extremely specific topics.

Metacrawlers are a third type of searching tool. These feed off the databases of major search engines and deliver results to the user as one complete listing. Use metacrawlers for major power searches and when you have time to sort through all the results.

Where do I find search engines?

The first place you'll encounter search engines is on the home page of your Web browser, whether it's Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, or another. All browsers also have a search button in their navigation bar that will take you to a page listing search engines.

Search Engines

Search Engine Watch is an excellent departure point for learning about search engines.

The site provides an overview of popular engines.

Lycos is a earch engine that features advanced searching options, category directory, PeopleFind, CityDirectory, RoadMaps, classifieds, and more.

AltaVista is a search engine that features advanced searching options and searches for documents in different languages.

Excite! is a search engine that features a category directory, headlines, and People Search. Result summaries include a feature that links each site to others like it, so if you find a site that you like, you can specify "More Like This."

HotBot is a search engine that features a very easy-to-use general keyword search that helps you narrow down your search quickly.

Northern Light is a earch engine that features numerous filtering options that make it easy to focus searches.

InfoSeek is a search engine that offers many different types of searches, including a company information search, image search, Usenet search, yellow pages, white pages, and an email address search.


Yahoo! is rganized as a directory divided into subject categories to lead you through the logic of searching. Also provides Yahooligans!, a search engine for kids.

LookSmart is a directory like Yahoo!

A2Z Lycos's uses a subject directory to provide quick access to the top ten percent of Web sites that search-engine users link to.


WebCrawler looks through the web for your keywords. Use it when you want to search more broadly.

Metacrawler uses the databases of major search engines and delivers results to the user as one complete listing.

Inference Find makes calls to a variety of search engines, removes duplicates and grouping the results into categories.