(This is originally a chapter from the book Efficient information searching on the web.)
Information searching on the Web is unbelievably multifaceted. Many different roads often lead to the same information. All of us can do it differently and still reach the goal. But sometimes there seems to be no road whatsoever leading to where you want to go. When this happens it might be good to know about a few navigation tools.
When searching the Web many factors come into play. A lot of know-how and skills are useful when searching. At first sight some of the topics of the book may seem irrelevant or unnecessary, but my personal experience is that everything has its given place. The different pieces form a whole. For example, knowledge of html (Web page description language) leads up to an increased understanding of the structure and limitations of a search engine.
When it comes to search engines in the book I often speak of Google in the first place, giving examples in Google, etc. In most cases the same (or similar) goes for the other search engines, but Google has de facto become the standard when it comes to search engines. Google is today the most used search engine and probably the one that has most Web pages in its index. But Google has a couple of great challengers (Yahoo! and Live Search) so next year Google is perhaps neither the largest one nor the most popular one.
Google is not only the most used search engine but also an advertisement service of great proportions. The company’s great profits come from the sales of so-called sponsored links which are shown on search pages. Critics mean that Google has cast its eye too much in the direction of commercial advertising and trade and that other search engines are better for information seekers today.
Information searching on the Web is very forgiving. Very few things are entirely wrong and it is possible to get to the same place in different ways. Examples of modes of procedure are:
- following your own bookmark in the Web browser
- writing a known address into the Web browser
- guessing the address and writing it into the Web browser
- browsing a link collection (browsing = systematic surfing)
- searching in a search engine
- using a meta-search service
Being out on the Web can be very frustrating. You can’t find the page you visited the other day, the search engine is not delivering anything of interest when you search or the form which you are trying to fill in doesn’t even accept the information. Researchers have started talking about web rage or search rage to describe the reactions caused by the frustration that sets in. Things don’t work out the way you want them to and you don’t know why.
Still more often users on the Web settle for second-rate results obtained through the search, though much better or more relevant hits were within reach. Why? Many times the average user’s knowledge is quite insufficient, especially when searching on a new topic. With bigger knowledge, and perhaps more patience and perseverance, everybody’s searches can become more efficient.