The information on the web is growing and being updated every day. There are millions of web pages and there is a lot of great information. However, one of the most noticeable problems with the web today is the difficulty in finding a specific piece of information. Unlike a library, there is no central card catalog for the web and it follows no organizational standard. Instead, search tools are used to locate information on the web. For the most part, they are fast, easy to use and open 24 hours a day. A search tool performs searches of the Internet based upon input by the user. This input might include topics, keywords or phrases, or any other type of search criteria. Some of the difficulty in finding information is going away because the tools for locating information are maturing, becoming more powerful and sophisticated every day. Because of the enormous amount of information out there, search tools are indispensible.
There are numerous tools available for finding information on the web, and each of these operates somewhat differently. Some of the tools use a comprehensive approach and try to include all of the information on the web. Other tools only cover a narrow subject matter, for example, there is a tool specific for finding conferences sponsored by the Microsoft Corporation. The results of your search will depend on the type of search tool you are using. It is easy to get confused when you begin learning about search tools because there are so many terms. This includes terms like "search engines", "meta indexes", "web guides", "directories", etc. The value of spending a lot of time on these terms is questionable as they are often vaguely defined and misused. Although we will attempt to explain several terms, at this point in your learning, you should not be overly concerned about all of the terms, but rather how to perform a search.