IN THIS CHAPTER
What is a search engine?
Anatomy of a search engine
Characteristics of search
Classifications of search engines
Putting search engines to work
Manipulating search engines
What do you do when you need to find some bit of information — a fact, a statistic, a description, a product, or even just a phone number? In most cases, you bring up one of the major search engines and type in the term or phrase that you're looking for and then click through the results, right? Then, like magic, the information you were looking for is right at your fingertips, accessible in a fraction of the time it used to take. But of course search engines weren't always around.
In its infancy, the Internet wasn't what you think of when you use it now. In fact, it was nothing like the web of interconnected sites that has become one of the greatest business facilitators of our time. Instead, what was called the Internet was actually a collection of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites that users could access to download (or upload) files.
To find a specific file in that collection, users had to navigate through each file. Sure, there were shortcuts. If you knew the right people — that would be the people who knew the exact address of the file you were looking for — you could go straight to the file. That's assuming you knew exactly what you were looking for.
The whole process made finding files on the Internet a difficult, time-consuming exercise in patience; but that was before ...