Wide area information server

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History and Development of WAIS
– WAIS protocol and servers were promoted by Thinking Machines Corporation (TMC) of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
– TMC-produced WAIS servers ran on their massively parallel CM-2 and SPARC-based CM-5 MP supercomputers.
– WAIS clients were developed for various operating systems and windowing systems.
– TMC released a free open source software version of WAIS for Unix in 1991.
Z39.50 version 2 (Z39.50:1992) was released, which was a compatible superset of the international ISO 10162/10163 standard.

Directory of Servers
– Thinking Machines Corp provided a service called the Directory of Servers.
– The Directory of Servers contained information about other WAIS servers on the Internet.
– WAIS servers created special records containing metadata and common words describing their indexed content.
– The directory could be searched to find servers relevant to a specific field of interest.
– This model of searching for servers became the model for GILS and WHOIS++.

– Brewster Kahle and Harry Morris left Thinking Machines to found WAIS Inc.
– WAIS Inc. was originally a joint project between Apple Computer, Peat Markwick, Dow Jones, and Thinking Machines.
– Ross Perot’s presidential campaign used the WAIS product as an information system.
– WAIS Inc was sold to AOL in May 1995 for $15 million.
– Margaret St. Pierre, Georgios Papadopoulos, and François Schiettecatte left WAIS Inc to start their own ventures.

WAIS and Gopher
– Public WAIS is often used as a full-text search engine for individual Internet Gopher servers.
– WAIS and Gopher share the client-server architecture and some functionality.
– The WAIS protocol is influenced by the z39.50 protocol designed for networking library catalogs.
– Gopher provides a free text search mechanism but primarily uses menus.
– The Webs data model is similar to the gopher model, but hypertext documents replace menus.

References and Further Information
– WAIS has grown since its start in 1990, with over 500 WAIS sources.
– A study on distributed systems of information servers involving WAIS.
– The National Science Foundation funded the Clearinghouse for Networked Information Discovery and Retrieval (CNIDR).
– AOL acquired WAIS Inc in 1995.
– Various publications and books provide further information on WAIS.

Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) is a client–server text searching system that uses the ANSI Standard Z39.50 Information Retrieval Service Definition and Protocol Specifications for Library Applications" (Z39.50:1988) to search index databases on remote computers. It was developed in 1990 as a project of Thinking Machines, Apple Computer, Dow Jones, and KPMG Peat Marwick.

WAIS did not adhere to either the standard nor its OSI framework (adopting instead TCP/IP) but created a unique protocol inspired by Z39.50:1988.

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