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How do Internet search engines work? What are the differences between them? Are there any tips for better searching?

There are over 600 search-engines available to use, some general and some highly specialised. But each engine will only find information about websites that have already been registered with it, and will ignore websites that the engine's database knows nothing about. And most websites are only registered with a few of the higher-profile engines (listed below).

Most search-engines use the same few basic methods of searching, using some word(s) entered into a search text-box. Optional symbols [such as +, -, "", :, *] help to limit or narrow down the search-results. The generally accepted syntax for searches is:

word1 word2 word3 etc
to search for documents containing word1 and/or word2 and/or word3 etc in the results.

word1 +word2
(plus) to search for documents where word2 must be included in each result.

word1 -word2
(minus) for a search where documents with word2 must be excluded from results.

(with colon) to search for documents that have word included in their title section.

(with colon) to search for documents that include word in their URL-address.

"some words"
(double-quotes) to search for documents containing an exact phrase of some words.

(star) for a wildcard search partial-matching the left-side. (ie. word, worm, worms etc).

word1 AND word2
(Boolian Capital AND) for search where both of the words joined by AND must be found.

word1 OR word2 etc
(Boolian Capital OR) for search where at least one of the words joined by OR must be found.

word1 AND NOT word2
(Boolian Capital AND NOT) for search where the word following AND NOT must not be found.

word1 AND (word2 OR word3)
Boolian ( ) parentheses allow combinations of search-criteria, such as a search for documents that contain word1 and either word2 or word3.

Main Engines: Search Criteria Available:
  word +/-word title: url: "any phrase" wild* BOOLIAN other criteria
Altavista Y Y Y Y Y Y incl.Nos.   languages, host:,link:etc
Excite Y Y     Y Y Y ICE related concepts
Infoseek Y Y Y Y Y     pipe(|),link: ,site:,etc
Looksmart Category oriented, associated with Altavista  
Lycos Y Y Y Y     Y, also ADJ/NEAR/FAR WWW or UK/IRE
Webcrawler Y Y     Y   Y  
Yahoo! Y Y Y Y Y Y   by date limit


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