Why WebZinger?™

by Len Kain, Vice President, Engineering, ImaginOn, Inc. 

23 October 1999

The World Wide Web is probably the largest and most unorganized database ever created. There is a lot of information out there. Some of it is true. Some of it is false. Some of it interests us. Most of it does not. Most people use their browser to find information on the Internet. The main way that information is found is through search engines such as Yahoo, Excite, and Lycos. People type a word or two, and the search engine returns the first ten (or twenty) sites from its database that match this. There are many ways that each of the engines prioritizes sites. These include relevance (how many of the words in your inquiry exist in the summary), economic considerations to the portal (who pays for them) or time that the site was entered into the database. The details here are not important, what is important is that in a short time (about 30 seconds in most cases) you get a list of sites that may meet the criteria requested, and some that should, but don't. Exactly what information is passed to the user in this initial list varies from portal to portal, or search engine to search engine. In most cases, the site URL (http://….) and a summary of phrases and words about two lines long is supplied. In some cases, the title of the site is also included. These summaries usually are automatically created by the search engine's "robot" at the time that the site is registered or entered into the database. It is often based on the keywords (or meta-tags) supplied by the site when it is created. These are the words that the site would like to be found under. It may or may not have much to do with the site content. In some of the recent improvements, a small thumbnail-sized picture is shown. An important thing to know about this summary is that in most cases the information on the page is old. It may be a day old, a week old, a month old or years old. This usually depends on when the site is registered with the search engine or when the search engine last "checked" the site with its robot software. At that time, the summary, title, text, or picture is gathered and stored locally in the search engine's database. In most cases, the actual site is not actually visited by the search engine before it is presented to the user. The site may not even exist any more! Typically, this list contains some non-existent sites, some non-relevant sites and many duplicate sites on the same server. For example, you may have www.imaginon.com, www.imaginon.com/help.htm, and www.imaginon.com/about.html in the same list. Or the sites that interest you may be in other search engines' databases, but not the one you happen to be using. So, you would not find them. 

It is this summary, one page at a time, ten items per page, that most people use to find information. They read these summaries,decide which site to try, and click on that link. This sends them to the site, if it exists. Otherwise, the user gets an Error 404, or other such greeting if it does not. Then, a period of time passes while the site is loaded and the site is reviewed to see if it is of interest to the user. If it is, then the user visits the site for awhile, if it is not, then the back button on the browser is pushed and the user returns to the list to try the next choice. How long does this take? On a ultra-fast T1 line, which most of us do not have at our disposal, it may take 10-15 seconds per site. (It may take a lot longer due to loading on the T1 line, or the restrictions placed by the server being visited, which is usually the bottleneck). On a more typical 56K or 33.6 modem, it will take 30-40 seconds to load the site, or longer. Worse, the user must be active the entire time, they need to move and click the mouse at each point. They need to make decisions throughout the process. To review ten sites in this manner can easily take ten minutes of your time, simply to screen the sites for relevance, to return to them later. 

There are some tools to help this process. There is a category of products called "meta-search engines". These search engines use a number of the basic search engines, eliminate duplicates, in some cases refine the search to make the sites shown to the user more relevant and then present the list to the user. This is quite helpful, and can easily reduce the time the user has to sit at the computer doing the search by a factor of 2 or more. However, it does not address the workload imposed on the user; clicking through to each site to review it for relevancy, and then possibly rejecting it. You must still spend a lot of time reviewing the sites and waiting for sites to load. 

A second category of tools is the offline browser. These tools seek to address the problem of the speed of a connection, especially on a modem. By downloading one or more sites to your hard disk you  do not have to wait 30 or 40 seconds for each site to load in order to review it. These tools are useful for downloading a site that is of interest to you on an ongoing basis and you need to look at often. It is not very useful for finding sites in the first place. Downloading 10 sites that may be Megabytes in size over a modem to decide if you like them does not make much sense. It would take hours, require huge disk usage, and be very cumbersome. It would tie up your computer most of the time. And you will throw away a large number of sites anyway. 

There is a natural mismatch between most Web users' objectives and those of the web site promoters and operators. A Web user wants to learn about a subject, such as airplanes, astronomy, or the Battle of Gettysburg. The web site promoters want the user on their site, looking at all of their information, regardless of its relevancy to the user's desired subject. Ultimately, the user will want to look at parts of a number of sites to find the information desired. How do you find this research information productively, without taking too long and without wasting your own time? This is what WebZinger™ by ImaginOn, Inc. does. WebZinger goes to the Internet, finds sites, eliminates duplicates, collects up to date research from sites including the title, a picture, most of the useful text on the site, and, if desired, audio or movie files on the site. It eliminates most irrelevant sites and presents you with a focused set of research for your use. WebZinger even probes from those sites to the sites that they point to. This technique, called Layering, allows you to access sites that are not even known to the search engines. Unlike most tools or search engines, WebZinger does not stop with a list of web addresses. WebZinger presents the information to you, in the form of a report or a slideshow. WebZinger automatically makes a report for you which can be printed out or shown to other people. This report does not have month old summaries, but current information. It has, for each site, the title, web address, most of the relevant text on the page, and a picture. Audio and Movie files can be run directly from the report. WebZinger is available in two versions, a software program that runs on your Internet connected computer and an online version that runs in your browser window like any other webpage. 

WebZinger, when run as a software program on your PC, is like using a VCR. You make a recording off of the Web about a subject,then play it back later. You push one mouse button, and WebZinger automatically, spending a few seconds per slide, shows you all of the slides. You don't need to press any more buttons, just watch. If you see a site that you like, simply push the "Go to" button and WebZinger takes you to that site. Each topic requested is presented on request. What's more, click on Report and WebZinger automatically makes a report. How much of your time does this process take? Maybe thirty seconds to start a recording. If 10 sites are found, at 4 seconds per playback, maybe another one minute. Ten minutes of pushing buttons, clicking, and waiting replaced with under two minutes of your time. 

WebZinger, running online, allows the user to have the flexibility of using WebZinger from their browser window, without downloading an application program. WebZinger Online presents the user with same report as is available in the software program version. Online, due to the high speeds available at the WebZinger server, WebZinger will return many reports in less than one minute. What's more, with the click of a button, WebZinger online allows you to go to each site used in the report. Also with the click of a button, WebZinger will find you more sites like the ones you just found. Like the software version, WebZinger Online finds research text, titles, images, audio, or video. WebZinger Online is available through the ImaginOn Internet TV station, http://www.imon.com. 

What do you use WebZinger for? Want to find out about a company? What to do in San Diego? Who sells tractors? What's on  the Web about Zebras? WebZinger is for you. Simply type it in and let it go. WebZinger will research it for you. Automatically. Conveniently.  And then it will present it to you. In an entertaining way.