the phone book, but some Internet services are good at finding
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #356 August 20, 1996 High Tech Office column
who you ask, the number of Internet users worldwide can vary from
a low of 12 million to as many as 50 million or more. And virtually
all of those people have an Internet address: one of those
things like "alan-dot-zisman-at-mindlink-dot-bc-dot-ca." And
don't forget that it's all small letters.
One of the
questions that Net newcomers ask is: "How do you find someone's e-mail
address?" It's a sensible question, but unfortunately, the answer
from Net veterans has tended to be "You can't."
registry of Net users, which is why estimates of how many people are
on the Net vary so greatly. As a result, there's no central
equivalent of the phone book.
of sites on
the Web are specializing in helping to track people down, however.
None are perfect, but if you're looking for a long-lost friend,
or business contact, they may be of use. I checked several out, asking
each to search, using my not entirely common last name.
switchboard.com) offers searches for people or businesses. Most
of its information comes from public sources such as phone directories,
real estate records and warranty cards returned by consumers. It claims
to have 90 million names in its database, but seems to be U.S.-only.
It only provides e-mail addresses for individuals who have registered
with Switchboard and given permission to release that information.
Because it uses telephone-directory information, you will find lots
of phone numbers, and often street addresses as well. It reported
157 Zismans, including two uncles of mine, as well as a lot who are
strangers to me.
to find a similar Canadian source on the Net, but a CD-ROM containing
all of Canada's white pages is commercially available, and can also
be read at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It reported
five Zismans across Canada, including me. (And if you need a phone
number from the federal government, the Canadian Government
Directory lists thousands of civil servants at http://canada.gc.ca.)
Tel information, you dial 4-1-1. The Four11 White Pages Directory
(http://www.Four11.com) wants to provide an Internet equivalent,
but without BC Tel's 95-cent charge. It claims to list 6.5 million
e-mail and Web page addresses, mostly from information provided by
Internet Service Providers. It offered about a dozen Zisman e-mail
addresses, of which two were mine.
to Yahoo, if you choose to search that service for e-mail
Beware, however, if you are searching for a name that's more common
than mine: Four11 provides only 50 'hits,' with the number increasing
to 100 with free registration.
claims it has archived over 50 gigabytes of data from Usenet
Searching here includes not only e-mail addresses of people who have
posted messages in these groups, but will also hit on names written
in the contents of the messages. My search here found the name of
one of my uncles in the body of a message, but failed to find my
despite my having posted a Usenet message last year.
popular Yahoo search
site not only lets users search for Web pages, but also lets them
search e-mail addresses. As mentioned, their results are provided
by Four11 and--not surprisingly--gave identical results to searching
that service directly. However, they also provide links to four other
nor OKRA reported any Zismans, so I can't recommend them. IAF
found five Zismans, but not me. The last service, WhoWhere?,
reported four e-mail addresses, one of which was my Mindlink address.
If you don't
have any luck,
you may want to give PeopleFinder a try (http://ww.stokesworld.
com/peoplefinder/people.html). Here, you simply post a message
asking for your long-lost buddy, telling how he or she can contact
you. It seems unlikely, but maybe someone with information on your
whereabouts will get in touch.