Fast With New Multimedia Search Engine

Fast Search & Transfer has announced the launch of what it calls the worlds largest multimedia search engine, an index of over 66 million multimedia files fetched from Fast's 575 million URL Web search catalog.

"With this new release, we have pushed beyond simply growing the catalog," says Stephen Baker, FAST product manager for Multimedia. "This catalog includes advanced features such as the ability to search by file type, color and audio scheme. We have also adapted our best-of-breed static ranking algorithms to ensure that users get the highest quality multimedia content and rich overall experience."

The new multimedia engine lets you search for audio, video and images respectively. We recommend that you go to the advanced search page and search from there. The advanced search is based on pull down menus and check boxes.

Images are sorted by file type (gif, jpeg and bmp), types (colour, gray, line art) and background transparency. You may restrict your searches accordingly. We are not sure how Fast determines whether a picture is colour, gray-scale or outlined. Indeed, when we tested it, it was unable to dig up any line art images of common motives like "car", "tree", "girl" and "ship". It did find a lot of photos, however.

The audio files are classified according to streams and downloads (based on whether you can download a file to your computer or you have to listen to it in real time), formats (MP3, Wave, AIFF, RealAudio, MIDI) and channels (mono/stereo). In the same way video searches may be sorted according to formats (AVI, AVI-DivX, QuickTime).

Unfortunately, the restriction to certain media types did not seem to work in the audio section either. We had a hard time trying to find any mp3 music file, legal or illegal. We even search for some of the most popular acts on and got no results. Most music searches brought up a lot of MIDI and RealAudio files.

Maybe the Napster trial has given Fast cold feet. It is hard for a search engine to see the difference between a legal and an illegal MP3 file, and we can see that the safest thing is to avoid them all together. Such a tactic defies the purpose of having a search option for MP3s, though.

It is a fair guess that the search mechanism was not functioning properly when we visited the site. Our suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the Fast/Lycos Mp3 search engine fetches a lot of MP3 files. However, there may also be another explanation. The Lycos/Fast MP3 search engine searches not only the Web, but also for files uploaded to so-called ftp-servers, i.e. files that are not going to be used on webpages. The Fast press release may indicate that the multimedia search site searches the Web only.

You may save your settings for popular searches. MP3 hunters will probably love that feature,as soon as the MP3 search starts working properly. There is also an "offensive content reduction filter", that sorts out offensive pictures. Fast gives no guarantees, though, and parents should be warned that this engine may be used to download some quite explicit pictures.

Note: This is an archived article first published on October 30 2000. Published on Per and Susanne Koch.