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Dave's Beginners Guide to the Internet

Finding Stuff on the Web

In order to find something on the web, first you need to determine the category what you are looking for falls into.

If you are looking for online information on a certain topic, you’ll probably want to use a regular search engine.

But perhaps you are looking for a recipe for a dinner. Sure, you could try searching at a search engine for a specific recipe, but it might be better to get to a recipe site first. So you’d want to search for “recipes” in general and then, once you find a reliable-looking site, use its own search engine or browse its categories for an appropriate recipe.

Or perhaps you are looking for a phone number. You’ll want to find some white pages or yellow pages. Have a phone number and need to know to whom it belongs? You’ll need to do a reverse phone number lookup.

This last example probably illustrates the problem the best. If you were to go to Yahoo.com and type in your home phone number in the main search engine, chances are you’d get nothing. However, if you took a different approach, and went to the Reverse Lookup section of anywho.com, you’d probably get the right result. But of course, you didn’t know that anywho.com existed before I mentioned it. So you’d have to take three steps:

  1. Search for "Reverse Lookup" at a popular search engine.
  2. Visit the sites that are in the search result for one you think would work.
  3. Once you’ve found a site that worked, enter the number you’re looking up.

Say you are looking for a recent unbiased product review. Sure, you could type "[product name here] review" in a major search engine, but there may be better places to look. Perhaps you'd want to check out epinions.com, a place where thousands of people submit and rate reviews about thousands of products.

Obviously, you are not going to know the best site for what you need when you are starting out. So, just test out a few different search engines. When you find a site you think is useful, Bookmark it. Right away, you'll probably want to bookmark a few major search engines, just to get started. Sometimes one search engine will give you better results than another one.

My personal favorites for search engines are yahoo.com, directhit.com, askjeeves.com, altavista.com, and northernlight.com. Other popular search engines include excite.com, lycos.com, infoseek.com, and google.com. There are a dozen more extremely popular search engines. I'd suggest that you try a few out. Sometimes it's best to use different engines depending on your circustances.

Here's a few examples of specialized searches:

  • How would you find the capital of Vermont?
    • Well, you could search for "Vermont" at a major search engine, but you'd probably come up with thousands of results, ranging from hotels and resorts to small businesses, high schools, and personal webpages from people who live in the state.
    • In this case, you might want to use a question-answering engine like askjeeves.com. Go to askjeeves.com and type in the question box: What is the capital of Vermont?
  • How would you find a local restaurant with genuine Thai cuisine?
    • Well, you could search for "Thai cusuine" at a major search engine, but it'd probably take you hours to find a restaurant that is within an hour's drive.
    • In this case, you'd probably want to check out an Online Yellow pages web site. Enter your City, find the restaurants category, and type in 'thai food' or 'thai cuisuine.'

So when you are searching, think a little bit about where you might find the best result. It'll take time to get used to all the different ways you can find what you want, but you're sure to enjoy the learning process.

Want an amusing search to start off with? Go to altavista.com, and type your regular full name (what you commonly go by) in quotes, e.g. "Bob Smith" You might be amazed at how many people have the same name as you, or you might find out you already have a few fan clubs. If you have a really unique name, I'm sorry! :)


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