If your interest lies in finding the right domain name for your new web venture, or seeing who has registered similar names, I find Whois Source (www.whois.sc) hard to beat. There are two aspects to this site: the name spinner and the domain explorer (a third is just a money maker for the company, auctioning off domains that are about to expire). The name spinner is brilliant when you know the type of name you want but cannot find a variation that’s still available. Instead of spending hours searching, let these people do it for you. Enter the name you want, see the top-level domains that are already registered, along with indications of whether they are active, expired or whatever, but also see similar domains using all the same information. If a name you really want is already taken, use the domain explorer to dig deeper into its details and discover who owns it, how long it has been active, when it expires, get a snapshot of the home page, details of SSL certificate expiry, web host server type and IP address location. There is also a one-click process to monitor a domain, so you get notified if it expires. Be aware that there is a commercial aspect to much of this stuff – you have to sign up if you want to activate a monitor, for example – but the most important search-and-retrieval stuff is free.
Taking the search lead
I have covered search technology a fair bit in this column lately, but I make no apologies, because knowledge management rates right up there alongside security as the hottest of topics on the client side of online computing right now. If further justification is needed, honestly answer the question, ‘can you find the exact information you need, when you need it, and without fuss?’ Although there have been some truly important leaps forward recently (including the move toward integrated Desktop searching from the likes of Google and Copernic), the search garden is far from being all rosy. Every current solution has its limitations, and each day more and more of us stumble across them.
I’m glad to say, though, that the passage of time and force of peer pressure do seem to be solving some of the more long-standing and annoying limits. Google has finally lifted its ten-word search limit, for example. ‘The ten-word what?’ you might be thinking unless you are a serious searcher, as then you would be only too aware that up until now Google has placed a ten-word maximum on the keywords used in a single search. Ask Jeeves, Yahoo! and even MSN have never imposed any such keyword limit, and I’m still at a loss as to why Google did it. The good news is that anyone needing to go Google on a whole passage of text, or to automate their searching using the Google API, can now do so with much less hassle, although I’m slightly disappointed to see that the new keyword string ceiling has been set at 32 words, which still is not enough in my humble opinion. If you have been moaning at Google about the ten-word limit, I implore you to continue doing so about the new 32-word one and, while you are at it, about the 101KB page cut-off, the lack of nested searches or any proximity operator. Talking of which, the only search engine I have found (and recently a client required me to write a report outlining the relative benefits of 50 of them) that does offer proximity searches is the little-known Exalead (beta.exalead.com).
‘Little-known’ does not imply little-used (and certainly not little usefulness), though, as Exalead has been powering AOL France searches for the past three years and its parent company has been highly active in the enterprise search space for six years. The web search engine was launched last year and features much of the functionality power searchers have been crying out for, including that proximity operator we have missed since the days when AltaVista, for example, used to have one. This is no coincidence, as the Exalead founder, François Bourdoncle, was part of the team that started AltaVista back in 1995, and AltaVista’s founder, Louis Monier, is a member of Exalead’s board. At one billion indexed pages, they are not claiming to be the biggest. In fact, Exalead is not claiming anything, as it appears content for users to sing its praises on the once-bitten-forever-smitten principle. User traffic is increasing at a rate of 20 per cent per week, so it would seem that word of mouth is working pretty well, and with both RSS and blog indexing picking up speed the two billion-page milestone will be passed before long.