Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Great Google – imposing supreme challenge to the professionals

In this discussion we are going to talk about the ‘Google’. It is the search engine which is being used most extensively all around the world to explore the web. We are unable to get the accurate size of Google in terms of how much web contents it possesses but it is immense in size. Google does not search everything which is published over the Internet, even though this enveloping much higher part of the web than covered by any other search engine. The most interesting aspect of Google is that it works with the practical parts of the society by putting itself in every walk of life. For example, Google is working with Information and Library Network Centre (INFLIBNET) to make union catalogues (databases), which are being maintained by the Centre, available through the Google. This is really a fascinating way to help the society by giving access to the information which is known as invisible web. What else user wants – an easy and free access to the information. It is not only challenging the library and information science professionals alone but imposing challenge to the professionals of all spheres. It has millions of full text books giving challenge to the publishing and distributing industries, covering more than 25,000 news sources which give challenge to the media professionals, writers, translators, cartographers, Information technology professionals are also not left estranged from professional challenges to them. In true sense Google is keeping professionals on their toes by imposing supreme challenge.

Birth of Google started with the phrase “Having a healthy disregard for the impossible”. Sergey Brin and Larry Page In 1998 Google launched with the aim to provide some accuracy while searching with its PageRank system. In this PageRank system, Google provides higher rank to important pages and high ranked pages appear at the top of the search results.

Google has been showing its presence in all spheres of globalization. From simple searching to Google Map, Advertisements etc. it has reached to access of scholarly literature through book search, Google scholar etc. Day by day it is achieving new heights of success in each and every domain.

Indexing and Searching:
Google is not only searching billions of web pages but also providing precision value while searching. It offers flexibility by using various symbols and Boolean logic (e.g. “”, +, - OR, AND etc.) and various other techniques to get more precision value. Google indexing and searching works in very systematic order. Google has a web crawling robot called Googlebot, which finds the web-pages and hand over the retrieved information to ‘Google Indexer’. Google Indexer is a huge index database which is sorted alphabetically with each index entry storing a list of documents in which the term appears within the text and its specific location.
Google does not index common words like the, is, on, of, how, why, some punctuations and multiple spaces etc. The query analyzer of Google called ‘query processor’ which has comprises with user interface, search engine that evaluates queries and results formatter. The query processor compares the search query with index terms and recommends the related documents. With the help of PageRank system, the page containing higher rank is more likely to appear at the top in the output. It also uses machine-learning techniques with in the stored data, to improve its performance automatically. For example, the spelling correction system uses the same technique and suggests alternative spellings. It also allows using formulas for calculation and unit conversions etc. Various options for simple as well as advance searching are being provided to help users.

Being a librarian I feel Google imposes a biggest challenge to the library professionals particularly in the area of electronic information. It is a most dynamic and vibrant search engine which is undoubtedly a leader in the world of search engines. While searching anything on the web, routinely Google comes in mind. The simple search with advance searching techniques is its beauty and searching loads of information is quite easier and user friendly, even a layman can search accurate information. Search for location, unit conversation, weather details, book search, image and video search, article search, synonyms, web-publishing, advertisements and in all domains of web-life, presence of Google can be felt easily. Earlier librarians were known as information searching experts and initially they dominated Google by rejecting it’s below standardized indexing techniques. But now Google is dominating library profession by using same indexing techniques in different databases for excellent output accuracy. For researchers and academicians it’s ‘Book Search’ and ‘Google Scholars’ are giving access to billions of books and articles. Easy access to the information and article search options giving ‘virtual library’ shape to the Google. This lets academic community using Google widely. Google has become a prominent reason which cut shorted the user’s visit in the libraries in search of information.
Goolge is in true sense envisaging the picture of library without walls or a virtual library. It would be good if Google provide option to choose areas to search, like selecting several vertical areas while making search. For example if I would like to search with in the blog, video, images and book search domains only then I have to search separately in all required databases or have to use general search option. In general search it would give output from all databases collectively (like news, video, images, Google scholar, book search etc.). Therefore, user will be provided the key to select his/her databases while making any new search. Google may also come out with another new database of “open access journals/magazines” which would only covers journals/magazines available freely on the web. The same way it can also think of giving single window searching option to the institutional repositories available openly on public domains.

There is no exaggeration in saying ‘Google is the reflection of web-of-universe’. It is the highly used search engine of present era. We can observe creations of specialized search engines all around which are coming with specialized features. Though all these search engines needs decades to achieve the success Google has achieved. Librarians are known as techno-savvy group of professionals but they are in dilemma to approve Google as a boon or ban for the libraries in general and library profession in particular. Though the underline factor is that Google is reaching to the users and helping them to explore the web-of-universe by this it is achieving the objectives which librarians dreamed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The world of search engines

Latest Trends in Libraries - A Discussion (Part - II)

Being an information provider, Internet always fascinates me and seems like an unexplored paradise. Internet is an ocean of web and retrieving a specific piece of information needs specialized searching techniques. Search engines, including Meta search engines and directories are the only tools to explore the web, even though the amount of invisible data (invisible web) is much higher than the indexed data. After inception search engines are doing a commendable job to minimize indivisible web.

Brief history of search engines

United States Department of Defense, in the year 1957 created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to enhance the U S supremacy in the area of military with the use of science and technology. They established ARPANET for sharing information with networking technology in 1969 under restricted environment and in 1972 ARPANET went on public domain which led the birth of the Internet. With advent of World Wide Web (WWW) a revolution in the field of information exchange over the Internet has been experienced. Many people get confused on the meaning of the Internet and WWW.

Internet: Internet is the network of the networks where we can talk about machine (computer) and cables (nodes).

WWW: It is the content part on which one can found information in the form of documents, sound, video etc. and it always exist on the Network because www is the programme which communicates between computers connected over the net.

Once Information being started sharing globally by the people, it becomes important to retrieve the same in systematic form. Therefore, Search Engines came into the picture. Search engines works through following three major steps:

Spiders of search engines follow links on the web to request pages that are either not yet indexed or have been updated since they were last indexed.

With help of a crawler, these pages added in the index of the search engines. So while searching, users are not really searching the web but searching in the updated index of the search engines which provide the links to the main source.

User or search Interface (for users) is the 3rd major part of a search engine.

Growth of search engines:

Archie, the first search engine was created in 1990 by Alan Emtage. It indexed computer files which was located at anonymous FTP for downloading. Just after that ‘Gopher’ search engine came to existence which indexed plain text documents

In stream first renowned search engine is World Wide Web Wanderer which was created by Matthew Gray in the year 1993. It is considered at first robot which ran monthly in the initial years to know the size of the web.

The first populated search engine was ‘Excite’ was created in the year 1993. It was the outcome of a project work of few Stanford University students and was released for general use in 1994.

In 1994, two students of Stanford University Jerry Yang and David Filo created Yahoo! by posting web pages with links to them. Their efforts were recognised all over and then they start listing of all their favorite web sites with description of the page and it become the first popular search engine directory to search the web. After receiving funds Yahoo become the prominent name in the search engines.

In the same year WebCrawler was introduced as first full-text search engine. It was again the outcome of a project work at University of Washington. Web public found this search engine as extensive tool to explore the web.

In 1994, Lycos appeared with various indexing facilities. For the year 1996, Lycos had indexed over 60 millions web pages and become largest search engine of that time.

Infoseek introduced in 1995 which was quite similar to Lycos. In the same year Alta Vista was launched. It was the first search engine which allows natural language to retrieve the information with advanced searching techniques. It also provides the searching facilities to multimedia documents, like audio, video, images etc.

Inktomi, in 1996, utilized ‘concept induction’ technology in which experience of human analysis applied to know which web site is mostly used and productive. Inktomi was purchased by Yahoo in 2003.

Ask Jeeves and Northern Light both were launched in 1997. After few months Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Stanford University launched ‘Google’ which started providing inbounds links to rank sites. Later MSN Search and Open Directory were also started. In the year 2004 GoodSearch and wikiseek and in 2006 and Live Search came into existence.

Search engine business is quite competitive, therefore various other search engines like Kosmix and Hakia etc have started mushrooming with additional features apart from simple searching.

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