Wow! Something I should have known about — Worldcat.

WorldCat is the world’s largest bibliographic database, the merged catalogs of thousands of OCLC member libraries. Built and maintained collectively by librarians, WorldCat itself is not an OCLC service that is purchased, but rather provides the foundation for many OCLC services and the benefits they provide.

I’ve just used it to look up a rare book and it told me which libraries in my part of the world have a copy.

The Alexa story

John Battelle, author of an excellent book on search, has a hyperbolic post on his Blog. It begins like this…

Every so often an idea comes along that has the potential to change the game. When it does, you find yourself saying – “Sheesh, of course that was going to happen. Why didn’t I predict it?” Well, I didn’t predict this happening, but here it is, happening anyway.

In short, Alexa, an Amazon-owned search company started by Bruce Gilliat and Brewster Kahle (and the spider that fuels the Internet Archive), is going to offer its index up to anyone who wants it. Alexa has about 5 billion documents in its index – about 100 terabytes of data. It’s best known for its toolbar-based traffic and site stats, which are much debated and, regardless, much used across the web.

OK, step back, and think about that. Anyone can use Alexa’s index, to build anything. But wait, there’s more. Much more…

It’s all done with web services. And it might indeed be significant because it could enable small but ingenious players to get into the search market.