Pardon the cross posting on PACS-L, GOVDOC-L and IR-L

I would like to announce the results of a study that I did in May and 
June of 1995. I compared the precision of four of the larger free 
World Wide Web indexing services: Infoseek (the service available 
for free), Lycos, Webcrawler and WWWWorm. For precision among
the top ten sites returned, I used a two-way ANOVA to judge significance.

I did this project for a graduate course in Computer Science. Although I 
did not get an outstanding grade on the project, I feel that there are real 
results and that they are important enough to post on the Internet.


Cutting to the chase, my basic finding was that Lycos and the free part of 
Infoseek have about the same precision, with Lycos just a nose ahead. I
was surprised and pleased with the precision of both. Webcrawler gave
me surprisingly bad precision, surprising because it is currently supported
by America Online. 

WWWWorm turned out to be a bit of a downer. My initial searching 
indicated that it was big league, but more extensive efforts proved that 
impression wrong. There are many smaller indexing services with it in 
this minor league: Jumpstart, Nikos, etc. I suspect that they do not enjoy 
enough institutional support for hardware to develop rich databases. 
These services are fairly abysmal, often retrieving nothing for a subject 
unrelated to computer science. WWWWorm was good enough that it usually 
retrieved at least one or two hits, which for my queries had high precision.

As far as response time between Infoseek and Lycos, Infoseek was better, 
especially during the workday when traffic is up. However, Infoseek would 
block the free users if the paid traffic was too high, which it occasionally 
was. Also, at that time, the free Infoseek only returned the top ten hits, 
whereas now, it will provide many more.

I have the complete report available on the Web at:

Please comment if you have problems with the methods or conclusions. I 
will try to make constructive criticism available on the Web too. You may 
email me at

H. Vernon Leighton