The Encyclopaedia Britannica, the venerable reference library still
associated more with large, leather-bound tomes than information highways,
has made a second stab at tapping the internet market: it has launched its
own search engine, but powered by real people rather than technology.
Launched in October, the Britannica Internet Guide - or ’BIG’, as the
rejuvenated publisher prefers to call it - is billed as the first major
web navigation service to offer ”search and retrieval technology with an
intelligent selection, organisation and evaluation facility compiled by
highly skilled subject authors”. It currently offers access to over 65,000
web sites, all of which have been selected by Britannica’s editors
according to strict criteria, including: depth and quality of information;
credentials of site authoring; elegance and clarity of design; ease of
navigation; and frequency of revision.
Most entries are accompanied by concise descriptions.
A rating from ’noteworthy’ to ’best of the web’ (three stars) is designed
to make Britannica a sort of internet Michelin Guide. And, if necessary,
there is a direct link to the Alta Vista search engine.
Britannica vice-president and general manager Tim Pethick says the move is
a ”natural progression” from the company’s first internet foray in 1994:
the Britannica Online web site, which is subscription-based and offers
links from the encyclopaedia to related sources of information on the web.