Yam: A Chinese Web Navigator

Yu-Lan Chou
East Asian Library
University of California, Berkeley
ychou@library.berkeley.edu

Many people experienced the same problem when navigating on the Internet: Too many sites but not enough help to get what we really need. This especially applies to finding Chinese sites.

Among those search engines that we are familiar with in North America, some support searching by Chinese characters. These include Alta Vista, InfoSeek, OpenText, WebCrawler, and MetaCrawler. They are databases or collections of Internet accessible sites. Some have more than fifty millions of entries. However, when using Chinese characters as search query, the result often contains some unrelated items. Because of the size of these databases and the large number of simultaneous users, there is a frustration of slow response. What's more, sometimes the results produced by the above-mentioned search engines could not be displayed properly. Thus, a Chinese Web search engine seems to be the better choice in finding Chinese information.

A Web navigator may include indexes by categories. These indexes are useful for locating general information. The main function of a general index is for easy browsing. For specific search, advanced search techniques such as Boolean operators will bring better retrieval results. Using Boolean operators in keyword search for Chinese characters is very effective. It eliminates to a great extent the problem of homophones and reduces the unrelated search results.

There are more than ten Chinese Web search engines at present. One of the most useful ones is Yam. Yam is very popular and now has three mirror sites. Following is a brief summary about what is available at the site.

The YamWeb Navigator (Fan shu t'eng wang chi wang lu tzu y"uan so yin) has both Web index and search engine in Chinese and English. It started around May 1995 to build the index of Chinese Web sites. It is largely based on a Taiwanese Web list previously established by Mr. Chun-hsing Wu. Not until August 1995 did the first beta version of the YamWeb Navigator come to existence. The beta 2 came out in late September 1995 and the product version in February 1996.

The purpose of the YamWeb Navigator is to collect homepages in Taiwan and then expand to other Asian countries and the worldwide Chinese communities. Other Web indexes both in Chinese only or English/Western language are included for cross reference. Its coverage is not only limited to WWW but also Gopher, BBS and news sites. Some statistics and analysis of the Internet usage in Taiwan are also been collected and updated regularly. Its WWW address book, new site list, top site list, and new site registry function are very helpful as well.

Yam editing staff review each site, pick up the best URL address based on the site content and relevancy, write a concise description of the site, and then put it in a proper category on the index page.

On its index page, there is WWW information in the following categories:

  1. Daily life
  2. Recreation
  3. Computer network
  4. Education
  5. Humanity
  6. Art
  7. Culture
  8. Social science
  9. Science
  10. Medicine
  11. Government
  12. Business and industry
Each category has some subtrees for more detailed topics. Needless to say, it is impossible to be a 100% comprehensive list of all sites in Taiwan but at least it provides a very useful interface in finding Chinese Web sites.

On the other hand, its search engine has "and" and "or" Boolean functions to search by Chinese characters. Vocabulary may be further broken down by space or putting "+", "-", and "*". "+" is used for "must include" and "-" is for "must not include". "*" is the feature I use most often for "linking search vocabulary". It will search for abbreviated terms too if the characters are linked by "*".

By no means the YamWeb Navigator can be compared with those well-developed Web search engines like Yahoo! in its complexity or scale. Chinese Web sites listed there are mostly limited to those in Taiwan. Yet it is a good example of localized development in Chinese Web search engine and index. It has a very promising future. If you are ready to try now, here are the URLs:

A word of note: it is a BIG5 environment.
Copyright © 1996 Yu-Lan Chou.
Submitted to CALA E-J on October 25, 1996.