by Len Kain, Vice
President, Engineering, ImaginOn, Inc.
23 October 1999
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.