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About the Author
Randolph Hock teaches customized courses on how to use the internet effectively through his company, Online Strategies. He is the author of The Extreme Searcher’s Guide to Web Search Engines, The Traveler’s Web, and Yahoo! to the Max. He lives in Vienna, Virginia.
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The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook
A Guide for the Serious Searcher
By Randolph Hock
Information Today, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Randolph Hock
All rights reserved.
Basics for the Serious Searcher
In writing this book, I have made the assumption that the reader knows the internet basics — what it is, how to get connected, most common terminology, and so forth. The "basics" covered in this chapter involve background information that serious searchers need to know to be fully conversant with internet content and issues, as well as general ways of approaching internet resources to find just what you need. I go over some details already familiar to many readers, but I include this background material 1) to allow readers to understand more fully the characteristics, content, utility, and nuances of the internet in order to use it more effectively, and 2) to help those who find themselves teaching others how to use the internet, by providing answers to some of the more frequently asked questions.
As for general approaches to finding the right resources, this chapter provides an overview and comparison of the kinds of "finding tools" available and a set of strategies that can be applied. The coverage of strategies goes into some detail on topics (such as Boolean logic) that will also be encountered elsewhere in the book. Integral to all of this are some aspects and issues regarding the content that is found on the internet. These aspects include the questions of retrospective coverage, quality of content, and general accessibility of content, particularly the issue of the Deep Web (aka, the Invisible Web, the Hidden Web). Woven into this content fabric are issues, such as copyright, that affect how information found on the internet can be used. Although only lightly touched upon, it is important that every serious user have an awareness of these issues. Lastly, the chapter provides some useful resources for keeping up with the latest internet tools, content, and issues.
The Pieces of the Internet
First, the internet and the web are not synonymous, although the terms are frequently used interchangeably. As late as the mid-1990s, the internet had some clearly distinguishable parts, as defined by their functions. Much internet usage could be thought of as internet sans content. It was simply a communications channel that allowed easy transfer of information. Typically, a user at one university could use the internet to send or request a file from someone at another university using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Sending email via the internet was becoming tremendously popular. A user of a commercial search service such as Dialog or LexisNexis could harness the internet as an alternative to proprietary telecommunications networks, basically sending and receiving proprietary information. "Content" parts of the internet could indeed be found, such as Usenet newsgroups, where anyone with a connection could access a body of publicly available information. Gophers (menu-based directories allowing access to files, mainly at universities) were also beginning to provide access to content.
The world changed, and content was destined to become king, when Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) in Geneva created the World Wide Web in 1991. The web provided an easy-to-use interface for both potential content providers and users, with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) incorporating hypertext point-and-click navigation of text, graphics, and sounds, and created what was for most of us at that time an unimaginable potential for access to information.
Within less than five years, the web had overtaken email and FTP in terms of internet traffic. By 2000, usage of the other parts of the internet was becoming fused into the web. Usenet newsgroups were being accessed through a web interface, and web-based email was becoming the main — or only — form of email for millions. FTP was typically being managed through a web interface. Gophers were replaced by web directories and search engines, and gophers are now extinct, except for the furry kind.
A Very Brief History
The following selection of historical highlights provides a perspective for better understanding the nature of the internet. It should be emphasized that the internet is the result of many technologies (computing, time-sharing of computers, packet-switching, etc.) and many visionaries and great technical thinkers coming together over a period of a few decades. In addition, what they were able to accomplish was dependent upon minds and technologies of preceding decades. This selection of highlights is merely a sampling and leaves out many essential technical achievements and notable contributors. The points here are drawn primarily from the resources listed at the end of this timeline.
1957 The USSR launches Sputnik.
1958 Largely as a result of the Sputnik launch, ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) is established to push the U.S. ahead in science and technology. High among its interests is computer technology.
1962 J. C. R. Licklider writes about his vision of a globally interconnected group of computers providing widespread access to data and programs; the RAND Corporation begins research on distributed communications networks for military purposes.
Early 1960s Packet-switching moves from theory to practice.
Mid- to Late-1960s ARPA develops ARPANET to promote the "cooperative networking of time-sharing computers" with four host computers connected by the end of 1969 (Stanford Research Institute, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and University of Utah).
1965 The term hypertext is coined by Ted Nelson.
1968 The Tymnet nationwide time-sharing network is built.
1971 ARPANET grows to 23 hosts, including universities and government research centers.
1972 The International Network Working Group (INWG) is established to advance and set standards for networking technologies; the first chairman is Vinton (Vint) Cerf, who is later often referred to as the "Father of the Internet."
1972–1974 Commercial database services — Dialog, SDC Orbit, Lexis, the New York Times DataBank, and others — begin making their subscription services available through dial-up networks.
1973 ARPANET makes its first international connections at the University College of London (England) and the Royal Radar Establishment (Norway).
1974 "A Protocol for Packet Network Interconnection," which specifies the details of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol), is published by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn.
1974 Bolt, Beranek & Newman, contractor for ARPANET, opens a commercial version of the ARPANET called Telenet, the first public packet-data service.
1977 There are 111 hosts on the internet.
1978 TCP is split into TCP and IP (Internet Protocol).
1979 The first Usenet discussion groups are created by Tom Truscott, Jim Ellis, and Steve Bellovin, graduate students at Duke University and the University of North Carolina, and Usenet quickly spreads worldwide.
The first emoticons (smileys) are suggested by Kevin McKenzie.
1980s The personal computer becomes a part of millions of people's lives.
There are 213 hosts on ARPANET.
BITNET (Because It's Time Network) is started, providing email, electronic mailing lists, and FTP service.
CSNET (Computer Science Network) is created by computer scientists at Purdue University, University of Washington, RAND Corporation, and BBN, with National Science Foundation (NSF) support. It provides email and other networking services to researchers without access to ARPANET.
1982 The term internet is first used. TCP/IP is adopted as the universal protocol for the internet.
Name servers are developed, allowing a user to get to a computer without specifying the exact path.
There are 562 hosts on the internet.
France Telecom begins distributing Minitel terminals to subscribers free of charge, providing videotext access to the Teletel system. Initially providing telephone directory lookups, then chat and other services, Teletel is the first widespread home implementation of these types of network services.
1984 Orwell's vision, fortunately, is not fulfilled, but computers are soon to be in almost every home.
There are more than 1,000 hosts on the internet.
1985 The WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) is started. Individual users, outside universities, can now easily participate on the internet.
There are more than 5,000 hosts on the internet.
1986 NSFNET (National Science Foundation Network) is created. The backbone speed is 56K. (Yes, as in the total transmission capability of a single 56K dial-up modem.)
1987 There are more than 10,000 hosts on the internet.
1988 The NSFNET backbone is upgraded to a T1 at 1.544 Mbps (megabits per second).
1989 There are more than 100,000 hosts on the internet.
ARPANET fades away.
There are more than 300,000 hosts on the internet.
1991 Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) in Geneva introduces the World Wide Web.
NSF removes the restriction on commercial use of the internet.
The University of Minnesota releases the first gopher, which allows point-and-click access to files on remote computers.
The NSFNET backbone is upgraded to a T3 (44.736 Mbps).
1992 There are more than 1,000,000 hosts on the internet.
Jean Armour Polly coins the phrase "surfing the internet."
1994 The first graphics-based browser, Mosaic, is released.
Internet talk radio begins.
WebCrawler, the first successful web search engine, is introduced.
A law firm introduces internet "spam."
Netscape Navigator, the commercial version of Mosaic, is shipped.
1995 NSFNET reverts to being a research network; internet infrastructure is now primarily provided by commercial firms.
RealAudio is introduced, meaning that you no longer have to wait for sound files to download completely before you begin hearing them, allowing for continued ("streaming") downloads.
Consumer services such as CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy begin to provide access through the internet instead of only through their private dial-up networks.
1996 There are more than 10,000,000 hosts on the internet.
1997 Google comes into existence.
1999 Microsoft's Internet Explorer overtakes Netscape as the most popular browser.
1999 Testing of the registration of domain names in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages begins, reflecting the internationalization of internet usage.
2001 Mysterious monolith does not emerge from the Earth and no evil computers take over any spaceships (as far as we know).
2002 Google is indexing more than 3 billion webpages.
2003 There are more than 200,000,000 IP hosts on the internet.
2004 Weblogs (blogs), which started in the mid-1990s, gain widespread popularity and attention. Facebook is launched.
2005 More than 50 percent of Americans who access the internet at home have a high-speed connection.
Google begins "personalizing" search results.
2006 Developmental focus is on a more interactive, personalized web, with collaboration, sharing, desktop-type programs, social networking, and use of APIs (Application Program Interfaces) to integrate data from multiple sources over the web. This shift is tagged "Web 2.0."
Twitter is created.
2009 Worldwide, there are more than 1.5 billion internet users, with the largest number of users in Asia (more than 650 million users).
2011 Twitter and Facebook play a significant role in the "Arab Spring." Of the estimated 2.1 billion internet users in the world, 44 percent are in Asia, 23 percent in Europe, 13 percent in North America, 10 percent from Latin America/Caribbean, 6 percent in Africa, 3 percent in the Middle East, and 1 percent in Oceania/Australia (www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm).
Internet History Resources
Anyone interested in information on the history of the internet beyond this selective list is encouraged to consult the following resources.
On the Internet: A Brief History of the Internet, Part I
Compiled by Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, and Stephen Wolff, this site provides historical commentary from many of the people who were actually involved in the internet's creation.
Internet History and Growth
This PowerPoint presentation by William F. Slater III provides an informative look at the internet's pioneers and provides an excellent collection of statistics on internet growth.
Hobbes' Internet Timeline
This detailed timeline emphasizes technical developments and who was behind them, plus a variety of statistical charts.
Internet World Stats
This website provides a compilation of current statistics, with graphs, for internet usage worldwide.
The "New" Web: Web 2.0 and Social Networking
Though individual websites are not usually labeled as Web 2.0, if you look closely, you will have seen these elements in a significant portion of the websites you use, particularly Facebook and Twitter. You are seeing manifestations of it 1) when you encounter sites that allow for user-applied "tags" (such as Flickr), in the way a search engine might "suggest" search phrases as you type in your terms, 2) in the ability to zoom and drag maps, and 3) in new content appearing instantly as you move your cursor. This flexible interactivity with webpages and with the web carries over into increased interactivity with other people on the web and can make web-based software (such as Google Drive) flow as smoothly as similar programs on your desktop.
Although most people believe that Web 2.0 has been an overwhelming positive development, there is at least one downside for the serious searcher and researcher: a corollary development that might be dubbed the "narcissistic web" — a version of the web that, inadvertently perhaps, causes users to narrow their world, see only what they want to see, and bias their results, without necessarily even realizing it. With sites like Facebook, we very knowingly pull ourselves into circles of friends and acquaintances we have designated. However, particularly with the personalization of results from Google, Amazon, and other sites, users need to be aware that more and more they may be exposed to a less objective view of the world.
By 2011, the characteristics identified with Web 2.0 had become so commonplace that the term itself was much less frequently encountered. The "new" thrust getting the most attention was a phenomenon closely related to Web 2.0, social networking. Social networking particularly and emphatically builds on certain aspects of Web 2.0, especially user-produced content, collaboration and sharing by users, and of course, social software.
The concept of social networking on the internet is not new. Indeed, pre-web user groups, such as those found on Usenet, could conceivably be classed as social networking. Take the same general idea and add in Web 2.0 technologies, and we get a quite different animal. One major defining characteristic of what we currently think of as social networking is that the anticipated audience for the user-produced content is usually the user's "friends," as well as acquaintances, friends of friends, colleagues, people we wish we knew, etc. Content is usually much more "personal."
Excerpted from The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook by Randolph Hock. Copyright © 2013 Randolph Hock. Excerpted by permission of Information Today, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword, by Gary Price,
About The Extreme Searcher's Web Page,
Chapter 1 Basics for the Serious Searcher,
Chapter 2 Directories and Portals,
Chapter 3 Search Engines: The Basics,
Chapter 4 Search Engines: The Specifics,
Chapter 5 Discussion Groups, Forums, Newsgroups, and Their Relatives,
Chapter 6 An Internet Reference Shelf,
Chapter 7 Sights and Sounds: Finding Images, Audio, and Video,
Chapter 8 News Resources,
Chapter 9 Finding Products Online,
Chapter 10 Your Own Place on the Web: Participating and Publishing,
About the Author,
What People are Saying About This
“[Hock’s] clear and useful guide will help anyone interested in going beyond Google, explaining when, why, and how best to use various search tools and other Web resources.” —Library Journal, on the previous edition
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For the "serious" searcher? This book spends about 60 pages talking about Google (as if no one's ever heard of that Internet search tool before). The author points out some helpful hints along the way, but honestly the companion website (available to anyone for free) is probably all you need to know.