Snap is a new "portal service" developed by NBC and CNET. As a gateway or portal, the site gathers information from various sources on the Internet, including Deja News, MSNBC, CNN and the Discovery Channel online. Due to the brand name recognition of its developers and content providers, Snap has quickly become popular.
Snap offers the usual features of portals including a directory of web sites, a search facility powered by Inktomi, news and current events (one of the sites strengths) with headlines drawn from a variety of reputable sources such as MSNBC (with interesti ng features such as links to the "Web's Best" and polls on the topic), and message boards (jointly developed with Deja News). Special features include the ability to customize using "My Snap" to select news feeds, bookmarks and topic areas, and the abilit y to view regional information such as weather and news on one page using the "Local" feature which is customized using zip codes.
The overall structure of the site is excellent; is it easy to navigate to different sections, and you always know where you are (and how to get back). Importantly, when you select a web site from its listings, you actually go to the site itself and not an other browser window within the Snap site. The organization of the site is clear and logical. Despite the amount of information available, the site's pages do not appear cluttered and design elements are maximized to be visually attractive and meaningful. The ubiquitous advertisements of commercial sites while not exactly low key, are not visually abrasive.
Strong points of the site in addition to news coverage include its help facility which is comprehensive and easy to understand. Another strength is that the site's search tool uses the powerful Inktomi engine. Unfortunately this is limited to the Snap sit e only - to search the web using another search engine, you must first search the Snap site. The "advanced" search interface is easy to use and does not appear disorganized, as does its "cousin" on the Hotbot site (which is also powered by Inktomi).
Search results are ranked only by "best" without an explanation of selection or rating criteria (for example, what does the check mark mean in the directory listings?). The results listing includes appropriate directory categories within the Snap site and a listing of "matching web pages" which do not appear to be ranked (no relevancy ranking appears). When the user conducts a search on a topic, the key words or criteria do not appear to be applied to the "matching web pages;" a search for "Egyptian" co nfined to the "Art History" category returned web documents for "The Official Spring Break Internet Site of the Spring Break Capital of the World" (Panama City, not Egypt.). Users are able to access a variety of other popular search tools from this listin g of "hits."
The site has a range of content that ranges from popular to undergraduate levels of research (with the exception of news feeds, which are of interest to all levels in research and academic libraries). Without a formal statement of selection criteria, it i s difficult to determine the user focus of the site and of the directory in particular. I searched under art history and did not find several sites or categories I expected to be included such as a "General Art History" sub-category which would almost cer tainly include the "Gateway to Art History" and "Voice of the Shuttle" sites. While some content areas of the site have excellent coverage (such as "Computing and Internet," others seem uneven (such as "Art History").
Suggestions for improvements might include: a full disclosure of the site's content providers, preferably available in one location (it is hard to ascertain the origin of much of the data/services), information on selection policies for web sites included in the directory (what are the selection criteria?), information about how frequently the site is updated (which is also dependent upon the content providers' policies), more reliable checking of links (a dead link is included to the "Roadmap 96" in the Computing and Internet section) , inclusion of relevancy rankings and a more "intelligent" or "intuitive" search for web pages. Overall, the site needs work to become useful to serious researchers, but is currently recommended for undergraduates and rese arch in news and current events areas.
Coordinator of Electronic Resources
The Sage College Libraries
Albany and Troy NY
October 30, 1998