Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Oracle is In 

Some folks are aware that Amazon.com purchased a technology company to focus on search technology a while ago. That company, A9.com, has just launched their site and toolbar. I’m going to experiment with it because I am a big fan of strong search technology for the Web.

I say strong search technology because it is only with the advent of Google that I feel that Web search has been truly useful. It’s a bit of an esoteric reference, but the subtitle of this blog actually refers to the dawn of Web search.I’m guessing that only those who have been kicking around on the Web for ten years or so probably remember that Yahoo! is actually an acronym.

In the early days of the Web, we didn’t have search engines. We had “oracles”. Oracles were essentially public bookmarks. When you found a useful site, you posted it on a page of your favorite links. Since there were no search engines, when you wanted to find something by a method other than clicking around randomly, you went to an oracle to see if they had a site that might either be exactly what you wanted OR potentially link to what you wanted. When Yahoo! was founded, the name stood for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Yahoo! founders Yang and Filo’s original innovation was their hierarchical categorization of links. Their early business was run like….well…a library. They hired tons of people to review websites and categorize them. Can you imagine? Humans! Clicking on links and assigning categories! Wacky. Now sites like Google have ‘bots that just troll the web and collect links.

At any rate, the launch of A9.com made me think that perhaps I should share some of the URLs that I have in my “utilities” folder in my browser bar. You may find some of these to be useful, too. I’d also be interested in knowing what your favorite web utilities are.

Currency Converter
This site is great for when you’re doing some online vacation planning and need to calculate hotel costs. Or for those times when you’re looking at a shopping site in another country that only does currency conversion after you put something in your shopping cart. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s free.

Internet Movie Database and
Internet Broadway Database
Is the father from I Capture the Castle really the same guy who played the head vampire in Underworld? Did Austin Pendleton open Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung you in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad? If you love movies and theater (or perhaps you prefer to say that you love films and theatre). Or if you’re a trivia nut. If you fall into any of those several categories, these two sites are indispensable.

Manhattan User's Guide
If you want more to do in NYC, this is a great site to learn about great food, shopping, theater, whatever. In fact, I have to admit that it’s not so much the site that I use, it’s their MUG email. I highly recommend signing up for it. No matter how well versed you may feel as a denizen of The City, I guarantee that you will not already be up on 99% of what you learn in their weekly emails.

Stop Your Mail Online!
What’s the worst part about going on vacation? Having to go to the Post Office and fill out forms in triplicate to stop your mail service! No more, my friends. Just go to this site and do it online. You can even tell them when to resume your service. Whew!

How tired are you of getting emails saying “this link didn’t work for me”? Here’s your answer. Just go to this site, paste the URL you wish to forward into the box and hit the magic button. Seconds later is a short URL you can email to people with the knowledge that it will not break up across lines. Hallelujah!

Shield's Up!
This is for our more technical readers. So you want to see how secure your machine is? Just point your browser to this site and follow the instructions. It’ll scan your ports and test your security. It will also recommend how to secure anything it can penetrate. A great, free service.

Street Locator for NYC
It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived in NYC since 1993. I still can’t predict where a building is going to be by its number. Now I don’t have to.

OK. This isn’t really a utility. In fact, it’s in my “amuse’ folder of links. But I had to share it anyway. You know when a friend sends you a link with a wacky eBay auction like the “ghost in a jar” auction or the woman who was selling all the dolls her ex-husband keeps giving her daughter even though he’s been told that his daughter hates dolls? Well, this site is an aggregator of all those weird events. Click away and then forward the best ones to your friends! You can be a productivity killer, too!

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?