Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    It's not exactly the phone book, but some Internet services are good at finding addresses

    by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #356 August 20, 1996   High Tech Office  column

    Depending on 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 hard-to-read-out-aloud things like "alan-dot-zisman-at-mindlink-dot-bc-dot-ca." And don't forget that it's all small letters.

    One of the embarrassing 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."

    There is no central 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 directory--no equivalent of the phone book.

    A number 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, relative or business contact, they may be of use. I checked several out, asking each to search, using my not entirely common last name.

    Switchboard (http://www. 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.

    I haven't been able 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 Electronic Directory lists thousands of civil servants at

    When you want BC Tel information, you dial 4-1-1. The Four11 White Pages Directory ( 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.

    Four11 provides information to Yahoo, if you choose to search that service for e-mail addresses. 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.

    Deja News ( claims it has archived over 50 gigabytes of data from Usenet newsgroups. 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 address despite my having posted a Usenet message last year.

    The 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 search services.

    Neither BigFoot 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.
    ). 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.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan