As you may have gathered from this chapter already, the Web is huge. Filled with sites devoted to news, stocks, sports, games, movies, real estate, television, and more, it's hard to decide where to go first. It's like having a shopping list with dozens of things you need to buy, but every item is for sale in a completely different store and you have to drive all over town to get it all.
This is where a portal site comes in handy. As the name suggests, a portal site is an entryway into a larger world. Or, to stick with the analogy above, a good portal site is like an enormous shopping mall that houses just about all the stores that you could think of—and then some. (There isn't, however, a Corn Dog Hut franchise in this mall.)
A search box somewhere on the page is one feature all these portals have in common. These boxes are quite easy to use: Type in keywords related to the subject you seek, click the Search button, and wait to see what Web pages the search engine thinks best match your query. As Chapter 3 explains in greater detail, search engines are the way you find specific information in the Web's massive sprawl.
Portals are more than just search engines, though. This section gives you a guided tour of four of the big ones so you can decide if they'll be useful to you in your online travels.
Google is the Web's card catalog, the closest thing it's got to a master directory. Hundreds of millions of people a day use this simple, streamlined ...