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E-Business Secrets

See which sites are most related to your site
Search engine add-on provides interesting data

By  Brian Livingston August 13, 2002  

Have you ever wondered which Web sites are most similar to your own site? Now you can see a graphical diagram of your site surrounded by these others, thanks to a new online graphing tool by TouchGraph.com.


TouchGraph piggybacks upon the "related" feature of the Google.com search engine. Google doesn't classify another site as related to yours simply because your sites link to each other -- it uses its own proprietary rating scheme to group sites together.

You can easily see a linear, text listing of sites related to your site -- or any URL -- by searching for the site name at Google, then clicking the "Similar Pages" link that usually appears below each listing. (This works best with well-known sites. Small and personal sites often have no "related" data at Google.)

But TouchGraph CTO Alex Shapiro argues that displaying related sites as he does, in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional graph, reveals relationships that aren't at all clear from merely examining a linear list.

For example, TouchGraph's home page links to a graph of sites similar to the National Science Foundation. The image reveals a web (no pun intended) of NSF's relatedness to various government agencies, foundations, and the like. More important, the diagram indicates sites that are closely related to each other as "clusters" within the graph.

As part of a discussion of his concepts at WebmasterWorld.com, Shapiro says images such as TouchGraph's may initially show all the connections between 30 different sites, representing 900 possible relationships. This is far more detail than would be suggested by Google's typical list of 10 similar sites.

As a Java application exploiting Google's developer API, TouchGraph suffers from the limitations of the search engine. Sites that don't rank highly at Google tend not to have rich information on their own relatedness. (Observers have also noted that Google seems to have developed its Similar Pages technology in part to catch and penalize bogus sites that set up rings with hundreds of links to each other.)

This is a limitation that Shapiro is well aware of. His technology, however, has usefulness far beyond search engine data. He's already, for instance, participated in experiments to map Amazon.com's "buyers of this book also bought" relationships. TouchGraph is an interesting tool that's worth a look to see what you might find.

TOUCHGRAPH.COM SHOWS RELATED SITES GRAPHICALLY: http://www.touchgraph.com http://bri.li/?4e67

ALEX SHAPIRO EXPLAINS WHY GRAPHS ARE BETTER THAN LISTS: http://www.webmasterworld.com@isbn.at@?718f

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1. SSL security in Internet Explorer rendered useless

http://www.theregister.co.uk http://bri.li/?42f

2. Online ads not working? Here are some alternatives

http://news.bbc.co.uk http://bri.li/?817

3. What if all the Internet backbones go bankrupt?

http://www.americasnetwork.com http://bri.li/?bff

4. How e-tailers can get rich data for customer service

http://www.computerworld.com http://bri.li/?fe7

5. Online auction business seems to be recession-proof

http://startup.wsj.com http://bri.li/?13cf

6. Dan Gillmor on the meaning of online copyright

http://www.siliconvalley.com http://bri.li/?17b7

7. Nirvana producer explains music industry (nice rant)

http://www.negativland.com http://bri.li/?1b9f

8. Tech tips: How to fix files Media Player disables

http://www.guardian.co.uk http://bri.li/?1f87

9. Usage soars with "Executable Internet" interfaces

http://www.btobonline.com http://bri.li/?236f

10. Site calculates the probability of your own layoff

http://www.economy.com http://bri.li/?2757

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SatireWire.com reports that the remaining 10,000 CEOs in the United States who haven't been indicted have been spotted in a mass exodus heading toward Mexico.

"Calling themselves the CEOnistas, the chief executives were first spotted last night along the Rio Grande River near Quemado, where they bought each of the town's 320 residents by borrowing against pension fund gains," says the site.

The report is topped off by an elegant photo of Martha Stewart, CEO of Omnimedia, who was captured in her disguise of a sombrero and a mask made from recycled Christmas wrap. This is just too funny.

ROVING CHIEF EXECUTIVES SPOTTED NEAR MEXICAN BORDER: http://www.satirewire.com http://bri.li/?c397

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Vickie Stevens. Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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