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Wide Area Information Server (WAIS)

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WAIS, Wide Area Information Server, is a distributed information retrieval system. It helps users search databases over networks using an easy-to-use interface. The databases (called sources) are mostly collections of text-based documents, but they may also contain sound, pictures or video as well. Databases on topics ranging from Agriculture to Social Science can be searched with WAIS.

The databases may be organized in different ways, using various database systems, but the user isn't required to learn the query languages of the different databases. WAIS uses natural language queries to find relevant documents. The result of the query is a set of documents which contain the words of the query: no semantic information is extracted from the query.

Developed in the late 1980s as a project of Thinking Machines, Apple Computer, Dow Jones, and KPMG Peat Marwick. WAIS functioned as a text database search system.