What is Wide Area Information Server (WAIS)?

Before the World Wide Web became widely used, the client-server database search engine known as WAIS was first launched in 1990. It indexed the data in files spread across several computers and enabled searching across networks, including the Internet. Database text queries were sorted by importance, with folders with the most keyword matches being presented first.

WAIS utilization fell off as the web gained prominence and ultimately became obsolete. Modern search algorithms have now fully supplanted the service.

How WAIS Operated

A directory of other openly accessible datasets was kept and searched on a central computer known as the Registry of Sites. Databases were split among a number of computers because the technology at the time had a limited capacity for data storing. One would install and operate their own client or communicate via telnet to a computer operating a WAIS client to perform a WAIS search. A WAIS user could access the Registry of Sites and explore a variety of dispersed datasets, each specializing in a different subject.

WAIS was also widely used to conduct text searches on specific Gopher sites. Contemporary search algorithms were influenced by WAIS in order to locate pertinent material fast. WAIS's appeal waned as the World Wide Web gained traction and replaced Gopher servers.

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