(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger

VII. INTERNET VS. ON-LINE SERVICES. The relative merits of the Internet versus on-line information providers are explored in a Lexis-Nexis Web page ("news release") entitled "Internet Myths -- LEXIS-NEXIS Facts" at release/nr12a.html. In this "news release" which is really an advertisement, Lexis-Nexis makes the following points.

"To compare the LEXIS®-NEXIS® service and the Web, it is helpful to view the two in terms of content, search engine performance and searching tools.


"Beginning with the size of its data warehouse, the LEXIS®-NEXIS® service is distinguished from all other electronic information sources, including the World Wide Web, by the scope and quality of its online content. On average, LEXIS-NEXIS adds 14 million documents each week to the nearly one billion documents online. In comparison, the World Wide Web adds more than 300,000 documents each week to its current estimated total of 39 million documents. In 1995, the amount of LEXIS-NEXIS online information grew nearly 40 percent, or the equivalent of about six WWWs.

"The World Wide Web offers informational gold amidst the dross of vanity home pages and corporate advertisements. The LEXIS-NEXIS service contains only official documents from public sources or licensed material from authoritative publishers and information providers. For 25 years, LEXIS-NEXIS has been an expert in creating systems that insure security, data integrity, billing and near 100 percent up-time, attributes that continue to elude the Internet.

"Search Engine

"Media reports about recent developments in search engines or "spiders" like Alta Vista and Lycos to locate and index Web pages have turned a spotlight on what used to be a very arcane subject, online search engines.

"Without a doubt, the LEXIS-NEXIS search engine is one of the fastest in the world searching one of the largest commercial databases in existence. More than 90 million searches were submitted to LEXIS-NEXIS in 1995, searching more than one terabyte of information, yet most answer sets were returned in around eight seconds. The LEXIS-NEXIS search engine uses Boolean search commands, a collection of mathematical algorithms that stand today as the best, most comprehensive method for in-depth research. It is the search method of choice for librarians, attorneys and professional information brokers who can't afford to overlook any document relevant to a particular search request.

"Because LEXIS-NEXIS is a full-text information retrieval service, every word is indexed for pinpoint location of every searchable term. The LEXIS-NEXIS index is always up to date, and the database is always 100 percent searchable. Even the best of Web spiders typically locate and index less than 95 percent of all web sites and only search periodically, such as once a week or less often.

"Searching tools

"If electronic information is akin to a field of hay, then the current generation of Internet search engines are able to gather it into haystacks. LEXIS-NEXIS on the other hand provides its customers with tools to find that proverbial needle in the haystack.

"LEXIS-NEXIS has refined its online system to make searching easier and better. For the infrequent or inexperienced user uncomfortable with the rules of Boolean searching, it has developed other search methods such as natural language and new graphical user interfaces.

"For precision searching online, the company developed such functions as MODIFY and FOCUS. Using MODIFY, the user can add words to the search to narrow or expand the scope of the search results, while FOCUS allows the user to spotlight words within the documents retrieved that were not part of the original search.

"For easier searching, LEXIS-NEXIS in 1993 introduced the FREESTYLE feature, which allows a user to write a research question in conversational language that may deal with conceptual or complex issues without the need for Boolean connectors and search logic. Using an evolving technology called associative retrieval, the FREESTYLE answer set is ranked by the relevance of the terms within the documents to the search request.

"For additional precision online, LEXIS-NEXIS provides a thesaurus of related concepts, which aids the user in thinking of additional search terms. This feature, available in both FREESTYLE and Boolean search formulation, suggests alternative terms that appear close to the one used by the searcher. RANK is another feature that allows the user to sort the results according to relevance, rather than chronological order.

"Another refinement for precision searching is the FREESTYLE Search Conversion option. Rather than reformulating a Boolean search request that resulted in zero documents or in 1,000 or more documents, the LEXIS-NEXIS user can convert the search to a FREESTYLE search for a guaranteed, manageable answer set.

"LEXIS-NEXIS also has developed intuitive AnswerPak software interfaces for a new breed of information seeker, searchers typically who are the end-user of the information retrieved, such as marketers, journalists, financial analysts and sales professionals. AnswerPak products use a graphical interface to guide the user through search formulation, source selection and document delivery options.

"Moving away from online delivery of information, LEXIS-NEXIS has been an industry leader in developing a group of current awareness or news alert products. These products employ searches developed by expert LEXIS-NEXIS searchers, or provide the user with a forms-based interface to create an ongoing search of their own, for the purpose of tracking industry, company or client news.

"The user, who need not subscribe to the LEXIS-NEXIS service, receives the results daily or more frequently via an enterprise e-mail or groupware system. Another variation of these products allows the user, via e-mail, to launch an ad-hoc search of the LEXIS-NEXIS database on any topic. These same products soon will be available via Internet browser." [End of advertisement]

Return to Table of Contents

Go to Next Section of Article

Return to Previous Section of Article

Created August 28, 1996
Last updated August 28, 1996