Research is what the Internet and the World Wide Web service were originally
intended for. The creators had academic research in mind, and that is still
a big part of the Internet, but the emphasis now is on business and commercial
research. Many people won't make any significant purchase without thoroughly
researching it on the World Wide Web first - though the actual purchases are
generally still made by picking up the phone or visiting a store.
Internet research is a real help for small business that have to compose proposals and bids, because the research can be done at all hours of day and night. Many business owners simply do not have time to do proposals during "business hours".
Internet research is also wonderful for finding out what your competitors are up to by checking out their Web pages on a regular basis. It is also used for tracking down skip pays and other problem people.
The original Internet research tools, Gopher, Archie, Veronica and the like still exist, but many internet service providers no longer support them, and their use is still almost entirely academic.
Today most research is done through the World Wide Web service where a number of "search engines" are available. These each have their own way of searching and indexing, but their use is now difficult because the Web is so huge, and because Web sites have learned to manipulate the search engines to swamp out legitimate information for commercial purposes. Only about 20% of the Web is indexed at all by any search engine.
Internet NewsGroups can also be used as a research tool. There are well over 30,000 newsgroups on as many subjects. These are discussion groups, similar to email, but completely open and any person can read and respond to any message. This service is greatly enhanced by DejaNews, which indexes all the newsgroups for easy search and retrieval on any subject. Some prefer the old style results presentation which can still be had from an independent site.
Some companies monitor newsgroups to see what people are saying about them (especially if those people are their own employees). Some companies have their employees participate in newsgroups as an impromptu customer support effort. Others are not so open about their participation.
Microsoft in particular used to monitor newsgroups intensively, and have their people participate in discussions under false pretenses (Barkto, etc.) to propagandize against other companies' products. If you said anything negative about Microsoft, you could easily spot the Microsoft plants, because their reply would have completely correct grammar and spelling (highly unusual in a newsgroup discussion) and would use "official" words and phrases. Microsoft learns though, and their shills are now often noteworthy for their atrocious spelling and bad grammar.
©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com -
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