Searching for Information

The Internet is a worldwide network of computers that allows you to send and receive information practically instantly. You'll be amazed at what you can find on the Internet with just a little bit of surfing. Whatever you can think to look for, someone else has probably thought to provide. Here's your guide to what the Internet carries.

What's on the Web?
Are the Internet and the Web the same thing?
Web links to get you started
What are newsgroups?
What's an FAQ?
What are Usenet, FTP and gopher?

Once you get connected to the Internet, you need to know how to find the Web sites and newsgroups that interest you. You may find, as many people do, that its fun just to wander - or surf - from site to site, going wherever the links take you. But if you want to find something specific and find it as soon as possible, you need to use a search engine. Here are the basics of searching:

Search engines: Finding the needle in the haystack
Deja News: Searching for newsgroups
Tips for searching

 Hughes Glantzberg

Last Revised: 11/17/1998

Created by
The PC Help Desk
(Hughes Glantzberg)

What's on the Web?

The World Wide Web is home to millions of Web sites, set up by businesses, agencies, institutions, individuals, and others. You name it, it's probably somewhere on the Web. Ever heard of a narwhal? It's a whale that sports a long horn on its forehead and lives in the Arctic ocean - and, yes, it's the subject of multiple sites on the Web. Here's a guide to some of the slightly less obscure Web information that you might want to explore.


Shop and buy instantly on the Web at the sites of individual companies or through mall-like sites that connect you to thousands of "stores." Such sites allow you to browse through products and services and even order and pay for them online. Here are some sites you might want to try.

Banking and Investing
The Internet is full of information and services related to banking and investing, from general advice about planning for retirement to up-to-the-minute stock prices. Plus, more and more banks are offering their customers online access to their bank accounts. You can also manage your own stock portfolio online.

No need to wait for the morning paper to find out what's happening in the world. Many news sites on the Web are updated repeatedly throughout the day. So you can get the latest on world events, sports, weather, and more, whenever you want it.

The Internet provides you with access to numerous reference materials, including the collections of many libraries, research facilities, museums, and similar institutions. You can find information as simple as the definition of a word and as complex as the latest in scientific research.

Part of what makes the Web interesting and valuable is that it's easy for not only large companies and organizations but also smaller entities and even individuals to maintain their own Web sites. So there's something for everyone on the Web.

Shopping, banking and investing, news, and reference materials are just the tip of the iceberg. There's also plenty in the way of entertainment and fun, obscure topics, and eccentric interests. Here are just a few examples of some of the variety on the Web.

To get an idea of what else is out there, explore the Web using one or more search engines. Type in any topic, see what comes up, and surf from site to site.

For starters
The Web also includes starter sites, Web sites designed to help new users find their way around the Web. You can also click Microsoft Internet Magazine. This takes you to articles about what's on the Internet and how to use it.

Are the Internet and the Web the same thing?

The Internet and the World Wide Web (sometimes abbreviated W3) are closely related but not the same.

How does it work?
Web sites reside on computers called Internet servers. When you're connected to the Internet, your Web browser can communicate with Internet servers, asking them to send to your computer a copy of the Web page you'd like to see. The URL you type or the hyperlink you click tells your computer which server to try to contact and which page to ask for.

What is TCP/IP?
The interconnected computers of the Internet are of different types, and they use different operating systems. To communicate with each other over the Internet, they use a common set of rules called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) or just Internet Protocol (IP). TCP/IP software allows your computer to connect to the Internet, too.

What's on the Internet besides the Web?
Many types of information are accessible over the Internet. Here are some things, in addition to visiting Web sites, that you can do using the Internet:

Sites to visit
You can learn more about the Web from the World Wide Web Consortium, an industry group that works to develop and promote the Web.

Web Links to Get You Started

Whether you're new to the World Wide Web or an experienced surfer, Web sites that review or rate other Web sites and provide hyperlinks to them can be a great resource. For links to many sites in a variety of categories, try visiting these.

What are Newsgroups?

Usenet newsgroups are Internet discussion groups on just about any topic you can imagine. (There are more than 50,000 newsgroups, and more are added all the time.) Each newsgroup covers a particular topic, often alluded to in its name.

A newsgroup creates a discussion string, or series of related messages. Each message responds to an earlier message or addresses the overall newsgroup topic in some way. You can post your own message in response to the messages that interest you most.

Thousands of topics
Do you suffer from migraines? Check out the newsgroup for support. Are you the owner of hunting dogs? Visit rec.hunting.dogs. Here are some more examples of newsgroups to give you an idea of the variety that's out there:

And, of course, there are plenty of newsgroups about computing.

You can find newsgroups that may interest you by searching for them through the Deja News Web site. The Deja News site is a good place to learn more about newsgroups, in general, too.

How to do it
If your E-Mail client is also a newsreader, you can use it to subscribe to, read messages from, and post messages to newsgroups. Microsoft® Internet Explorer v4.0 makes newsgroup access easy, too. On the Go menu, simply select News. Internet Explorer automatically launches Outlook Express™ and opens your newsgroups folder so you can get down to business.

Start here
Before you join into a newsgroup discussion:

Sites to visit
The Deja News Web site is a good place to learn more about newsgroups, and it provides a way for you to search newsgroups for those that interest you.

ZDNet's "Usenet 101" article covers newsgroup basics.

What's an FAQ?

FAQ, pronounced "F-A-Q," stands for "frequently asked questions." Many sites on the World Wide Web include a FAQ, which answers common questions about the site, such as what it covers, how to find information on it, and who created it. Typically a FAQ will be in the form of a text document you can download, rather than a full-fledged Web site. When you visit a newsgroup for the first time, look for its FAQ. It will probably answer all of your questions about the newsgroup and can help you get the most out it, as well.

What are Usenet, FTP and Gopher?

Usenet, FTP and gopher represent ways of accessing information other than Web sites over the Internet.

Sites to visit
Find out more about newsgroups at the Deja News Web site.

Visit the University of Minnesota gopher to find out about gophers, to link to other gophers, and to search gophers using Veronica.

Learn all about Archie and search FTP sites from the Archie home page on the Web.

Use Galaxy to search gophers.

Search Engines: Finding the Needle in the Haystack
A search engine is a service that indexes, organizes, and often rates and reviews Web sites. It helps you find the needle - that one Web site you've got to see - in the Internet haystack. Different search engines work in different ways.

So when you search their "holdings," you're bound to get different results.

Which one should I use?

No search engine keeps track of all the content on the Internet. Even the major search engines - such as Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo! - won't give you everything. (Some studies indicate that even the top search engines find less than half of what's really out there!) You can try several major search engines by visiting an all-in-one search site.

Here's a quick introduction to some of the major search engines:

Major search sites generally provide more than a search engine for finding Web sites. They also allow you to look up information such as recent news stories, newsgroup postings, reference material (such as dictionary entries and maps), and E-Mail addresses, street addresses, and telephone numbers of business and individuals.

Here are two guidelines for picking a search engine:

Sites to visit
Go directly to one of these search engines: Excite, Infoseek, Lycos, Yahoo!, and Metacrawler.

Deja News: Searching newsgroups
Usenet newsgroups are Internet discussion groups on just about any topic you can imagine. (There are more than 50,000 newsgroups, and more are added all the time.) Do you suffer from migraines? Check out the newsgroup for support. Are you the owner of hunting dogs? Visit rec.hunting.dogs. Here are some more examples of newsgroups to give you an idea of the variety that's out there:

And, of course, there are plenty of newsgroups about computing.

The Deja News search engine allows you to search millions of newsgroup messages to find a specific topic that interests you. It also allows you to post your own message in response to what you read. The Deja News site is a good place to learn more about newsgroups, in general, too.

Sites to visit
Find out more about newsgroups at the Deja News home page.

Tips for searching
Whatever search engine you use, these tips will help you find what you're looking for.

General searching

Use more than one search engine.

No search engine indexes all Web sites and Web pages. So if your first search doesn't produce the results you wanted, try searching with at least one other searching engine.

Read the "About" page.
Many search engines have a link that leads to detailed information about how the search engine compiles and searches through information and how to get the best results from it. Reading this page can save you a lot of time and headaches. Also, visit search engine home page links with names like "How To," "Search Help," and "Advanced Search" for searching tips.

Get targeted results by being specific.
The more specific your search word, the more targeted your search results will be. If you search for the words Labrador retriever, for example, rather than the word dog, your search will yield fewer sites, but they will be targeted to the type of dog that interests you.

Get more results by being general.
If your search word is too specific, your search may yield few or no results. To get more results, try searching for a related word that is more general.

Define your search using Boolean operators.
The major search engines let you select whether to search for the exact phrase you typed, all the words in the phrase but not necessarily together, any of the words in a phrase, and so on. A few search engines do not give you such options. In this case, you can define the search yourself by adding one or more words or symbols to your search topic.

Searching with Microsoft® Internet Explorer version 4.0

Search the Internet with a search engine-using Internet Explorer 4.0

  1. On the toolbar, click the Search button.
  2. In the Search bar that appears in the left pane of your Internet Explorer window, choose your preferred search engine from the drop-down list in the box labeled Select provider.
  3. Depending on the search engine you've chosen, you may now have some options for configuring your search. Make your selections, or accept the default selections.
  4. In the appropriate text box, type the word or phrase you're looking for, and then click Search, Submit, or Go Get It, depending on the search engine.
  5. The search results appear in the list within the Search bar. Click on any link to open the associated Web page in the right pane of your Internet Explorer window.
  6. Any time you want to pursue another link from the search results, click it. The new Web page will open in the right pane.
  7. To hide the Search bar, click the Search button on the toolbar again.

Search the Internet from the Address bar-using Internet Explorer 4.0

  1. In the Address bar, type go, find, or ? followed by a space and the word or phrase you want to find. For example, type Go Labrador retriever.
  2. In the list of search results, click a link to display the Web page.

Note: This AutoSearch feature uses only one search service to find information.

Search for text on the current Web page-using Internet Explorer 4.0

  1. On the Edit menu, click Find (on this page).
  2. Type the text you want to find.
  3. Change any settings as needed.
  4. Click Find Next.

Find a Web site when a URL doesn't work-using Internet Explorer 4.0
If the URL, or Web address, that you type in the Address bar or click on a Web page doesn't work, try this to correct the address:

  1. On the View menu, click Internet Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Scroll to Searching. Under Search when URL fails:
  1. If you want Internet Explorer to search for the address using a different domain, select the Autoscan common root domains check box under Searching. (A domain is specified by the three-letter extension-such as .org, .edu, .com, and .gov - in the address. It tells you a site's type. If you select the Autoscan common root domains option, Internet Explorer will check the root of your URL with other domain extensions.)
  2. Click OK.

Sites to visit
Find out more about newsgroups at the Deja News home page.