Simon Willison’s Weblog

Tim Bray on search

I love it when bloggers stick to their word. The other day, while describing a quick Perl hack that really impressed a major client a few years ago, Tim Bray mentioned the following:

Then I turned on Microsoft’s search engine, at that time called Index Server, now I believe called Index Services, which is a pretty nice tool (we don’t have the equivalent in the Open Source world, more on that another time).

And sure enough, he’s just posted the first in a series of essays on full-text search. Go read it: it’s really interesting stuff. Tim’s conclusion is:

What we need is for Apache to come out-of-the-box with a built-in search capability that you just push a button and it works, and it’s fast, and doesn’t need much care and feeding, and it’s internationalized, and it has the right API for when you want to get fancy.

Until that happens, I will happily recommend MySQL’s built in fulltext search indexing for quickly adding a relatively powerful search facility to a site. I use it on this blog and my only real criticism is that it insists on search words of at least 4 letters, which is less than ideal when most of your entries include TLAs. Hopefully they’ll provide a way around this limitation in a future release.

This is Tim Bray on search by Simon Willison, posted on 16th June 2003.

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