Before You Begin to Search

Feel overwhelmed by the Information Explosion? You should!

  • Today’s NY Times contains more information than the average person in 17th century England encountered in his/her lifetime. (Wurman, 1989)

What’s the Internet?

Begun by the Defense Department in the 1960s as a fail safe computer network in case of nuclear war, it’s a vehicle for linking up computer networks so that researchers across miles could share information quickly.

In the 1990s, the World Wide Web was developed, a huge and growing part of the Internet that uses highlighted links (hypertext transfer protocol or http://) to move you from one server or document or file to another.

The State of the Internet: HUGE

  • 1998: 2,636,000 unique web sites; 2002: 8,712,000
    (OCLC Size and Growth Statistics)
  • Billions of pages
  • Google: indexes over 8 billion pages (Search Engine Watch, 2004)
  • Millions of pages are added each day
  • Part of the Internet is invisible (databases, for instance) and cannot be searched using the standard search engines
  • No standard indexing
  • No librarians or gatekeepers, or police.
  • Because of the size, no one search engine can index the entire Internet
  • “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”
    Mitchell Kapor
  • “When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web…. Now even my cat has its own page.” Bill Clinton
  • How much time do you spend on the Internet?

How important is the Internet?

  • 45% of internet users or about 60 million Americans, said that in the last two years, the internet played a crucial or important role in making a decision in at least one of these areas: buying a car, changing jobs, finding a new place to live, dealing with a major illness, additional training for a career, choosing a college or school, making a major financial investment.

Pew Reports, April 2006, The Role of the Internet in Life’s Major Moments

Terminology:

URL: Uniform Resource Locators, or unique addresses of Internet sites.

When you type in a URL, you’re asking a computer somewhere to let you access information hosted on that computer.

Type of file (protocol) server.domain Path or directory Name of file (ends in htm or html)
http:// vanguard.edu/ library/subjects/ lit.htm

Top level domain names are particularly important!

Save time! As you’re searching and get 253,452 citations or hits for a keyword search, you can sometimes eliminate many of those from consideration by just looking at the top level domain.

.edu education (colleges and universities)

.com commercial (businesses)

.org organization (nonprofit organizations)

.gov government (nonmilitary government branches)

.mil military

k12 schools

cc community college

lib library

ac academic (european .edu)