Switchboard provides a simpler interface and a few more alternative features. This free residential and business directory service has been up on the Web since 1996 offering access to databases provided by the American Business Information company noted above. This site does offers a number of additional features such as the ability to search for Web sites and e-mail addresses, apply for a free e-mail account and send flowers or a card to anyone you choose with a few clicks of the mouse and a valid VISA card. However, a number of searches for e-mail addresses came up with zero hits, so this part of the service isn't comprehensive by any means. The business directory does allow for searching by company name without having to enter a state, which is useful, and it does permit searches by major pre-defined category that can then be limited by geographic area. However, it isn't as sophisticated as the American Business Directory's home site as far as breakdown by zip codes, MSA, or SIC codes.
Switchboard offers a single site for finding friends, family and colleagues nationwide on the Internet while protecting their privacy. Regarding privacy, they allow users to delete their entry if they want and they do not allow for reverse look-ups. Another unique feature of this site is the ability of users to register with the service and update their own entry with additional information such as FAX number, hobbies, e-mail address etc. Academic users would find either of these sites useful for basic phone directory services, and clever and patient business students could make use of the more advanced features of the ABI site.
Lucinda R. Zoe
Head, Electronic Information Services
Baruch College, CUNY, New York, NY