Making effective use of the Internet
Telephone and E-mail address directories
Your news researcher may have a better way of finding people or businesses than these online phone books. But if you don't mind wading through lists of duplicate names, they might help when you're desperate. Remember that many of them base their numbers on the same regional telephone books. Most now include e-mail address look ups. But many of the databases are out of date.
For search help, check out IRE Tip Sheet #3233 (pdf) from Toby Lyles. It lists myriad resources for locating and backgrounding individuals. For more techniques to locate people, refer to pages 67-88 in The Reporter's Handbook, 5th ed.
- ZabaSearch - ZabaSearch allows for quick access to records available in the public domain. Searches generate lists of available information gathered from sources such as court documents, phone listings, and real estate records.
- Whitepages.com - This phone direction has easy-to-find links and reverse, area code and zip cop lookups at the top of the page.
- Switchboard - One of the oldest phone directories on the Web. Includes a reverse directory as well as a map of the address and an e-mail address lookup.
- Internet Address Finder - An e-mail address finder. You can also use it as a "finger" to get more information on a person whose e-mail address you know.
- Fone Finder - Use an area code and the exchange number to find the provider of the service for that phone number, for U.S. and Canadian telephone numbers. This can be a good place for finding out if a telephone number belongs to a cell phone. The information provided is only the company providing the service. It does not provide information about who is listed at that phone number. Finds the geographic location of any phone number in the world. You key in a phone number, and it will give you the city, state, country, a flag, map, and links to the area.
- Anywho - Run by AT&T, it's also one of the few with a reverse directory. When you get the street you can click on it for neighbors' phone numbers, and it will draw a map when it finds the address.
- International Numbering Plans - This free service identifies the geographic location where an international phone number originates and what telephone company is responsible for that number. This service includes cellular telephones. It also offers a list of area codes and a list of international dialing codes.
Web address tracers
Where you need to go when you're checking out who operates the Web site at any given URL. Good to check out when you need basic information about those who are posting to a Web site when you're not sure who you should trust. Here are sites that search official address-givers' records on who owns a site, including the city and phone number of the person who signed up for a site's Web address. It's much harder - but not impossible - to fake a Web address than an e-mail address.
Sites that search official address-givers' records on who owns a site, including the city and phone number of the person who signed up for a site's Web address. It's much harder — but not impossible — to fake a Web address than an e-mail address. The arin.net site is good when all you have is the IP address of the site you’re looking for.
Strategy: The links below will take you to some of the best search engines the Web has to offer, but each engine is only as smart as the user operating it. Be sure to take the time to read the help section of your favorite engine so you learn special syntax to hone searches and save countless hours of frustration.
- Google - This search engine has become so popular it is now a verb. Do you google? It has earned its reputation with search results that are ranked not only by how well they match your search terms, but also by how many other sites link to the pages that match your search. Click on the "Advanced Search" link to refine your searches, allowing you to search by domain or file type extensions. Also searches for images and has a news page.
- InfoSpace - This meta search engine combines results from Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Ask and more.
- Twingine - Offers side-by-side results from Yahoo! and Google.
- Jux2 - This meta search engine combines results from Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
- AlltheWeb - AlltheWeb delivers comprehensive search results from more than 3 billion Web pages - more than Google - and integrates them with award-winning breaking news results from thousands of news sources and hundreds of millions of multimedia, video, MP3 and software files all within a single search result page.
- Excite - This reorganized site now searches many of the most popular search engines at once, making it similar to AlltheWeb. It maintains its organization by category results, letting you hone in quickly to the most relevant sites for your concept.
- Altavista - Use the "Advanced Search" for powerful Boolean operators. This is a good one to use if you only want, say, nonprofit sites in your results (in that case, use the search term "url:org").
- HotBot - Gives you lots of powerful tools, called filters, and a very big set of Web sites to search.
The Invisible Web
Strategy: The Invisible Web is made up of tons of information invisible to most search engines. That's because most of the information is stored in databases that cannot be accessed by the software search engines used to compile their indexes. Fortunately, there are a few sites that can help you get at this information.
For more information on the Invisible/Deep Web, check out IRE Tip Sheet #2637 (pdf) from Margot Williams & Nora Paul .
The following search engines dig information up about people from the deep Web including social network sites such as Facebook and Myspace. Information retrieved includes photos, documents, email addresses, social network sites and more. Some of the sites search blogs and Twitter as well:
Other Deep Web Site:
- CompletePlanet - CompletePlanet organizes the invisible Web by categories. It has become so popular that its servers sometimes get too busy to process search requests.
- INFOMINE - INFOMINE is an academic search engine, focusing on scholarly resource collections, electronic journals and books, online library card catalogs, and directories of researchers. INFOMINE is librarian built and the University of California, California State University, University of Detroit (Mercy) and other university and college librarians have contributed to building it.
- Scolar Google - Another service from the search giant Google that does what basic Google doesn’t. It searches databases of academic papers that typical search engines do not. A good starting point for finding what academics are doing but rarely enter the public realm on subjects you cover. For much special Google sites and to see what they’re up to, see http://www.google.com/intl/en/options/
The Dead Web
Strategy: Companies and organizations update their Web sites all the time, but much useful information is no longer listed on the new pages. When investigating these organizations, check out their old Web pages for information they no longer post. Also be sure to check the Google cache.
- Wayback Machine - Browse through 40 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago. To start surfing the Wayback, type in the web address of a site or page where you would like to start, and press enter. Then select from the archived dates available. The resulting pages point to other archived pages at as close a date as possible.
- MINERVA - The Library of Congress Web Archives has collections of Web sites for specific topics – mainly major events such as September 11 or elections.
- CyberCemetery - This site is an archive of sites for defunct government agencies and commissions. You can search the collection or browse it by the date the agency expired or name.