WAIS (Wide Area Information Servers) is an Internet system in which specialized subject databases are created at multiple server locations, kept track of by a directory of servers at one location, and made accessible for searching by users with WAIS client programs. The user of WAIS is provided with or obtains a list of distributed database s. The user enters a search argument for a selected database and the client then accesses all the servers on which the database is distributed. The results provide a description of each text that meets the search requirements. The user can then retrieve the full text.
WAIS (pronounced "ways") uses its own Internet protocol , an extension of the Z39.50 standard (Information Retrieval Service Definition and Protocol Specification for Library Applications) of the National Information Standards Organization. Web users can use WAIS by either downloading a WAIS client and a "gateway" to the Web browser or by using Telnet to connect to a public WAIS client.
Because of the abundance of content and search engines now available on the Web, few if any WAIS servers remain in operation.