Information Today
Volume 18, Issue 10 — November 2001
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OCLC Unveils Research Results, Enhancements to WorldCat

OCLC has announced that in its annual survey of the World Wide Web, its Office of Research has determined that the number of public Web sites continues to expand (but at a slower rate), the distribution of public Web sites over countries and languages has been stable over the last several years, and information and professional consulting industries operate the largest proportion of Web sites. OCLC also announced that it has enhanced WorldCat on its FirstSearch service by adding expanded search options and descriptive content to help users more easily identify materials.

Research Results
"We may be witnessing the cresting of the first wave of new Web site providers," said Ed O'Neill, OCLC consulting research scientist and manager of the OCLC Web Characterization Project. "The recent string of dot-com failures may also be a factor in the slowdown, as well as the increased use of virtual hosting technologies, which permits the clustering of multiple 'virtual sites' at a single Internet location."

The Web Characterization Project, conducted by the OCLC Office of Research, has collected a random sample of Web sites annually since 1997. According to the announcement, the OCLC Office of Research is one of the world's leading centers devoted exclusively to the challenges facing libraries in a rapidly changing information technology environment.

According to statistics compiled for the year ending June 30, the public Web includes more than 3.1 million sites, a 6-percent increase over the previous year's total. A public Web site is defined as a distinct location on the Internet offering unrestricted public access to content via Web protocols. The rate of growth of the public Web has been slowing over the last few years, a trend that was especially pronounced over the last 12 months. From 1997 to 2000, the public Web increased by about 700,000 sites each year, but increased by only 200,000 sites between 2000 and 2001.

Public Web sites constitute 36 percent of the Web as a whole; the remainder includes sites that are duplicates of other public sites, sites that offer content intended for a restricted audience (e.g., those sites that require prior authorization for access, or are a Web interface to hardware such as routers or printers), and sites that are "under construction." Over the past year, the Web as a whole grew by 18 percent, reaching an estimated total of nearly 9 million sites. Although more than 1.3 million new sites were added to the Web during this period, growth over the past year is substantially slower than that observed between 1998 and 1999 (71 percent) or between 1999 and 2000 (52 percent). Overall, however, the number of Web sites has increased almost sixfold since OCLC's first survey in 1997.

Analysis of public Web sites suggests that the international character of the Web—as measured by the country of origin and languages of public Web site content—has changed little in the last several years. About half of the sampled public Web sites in 2001 were provided by organizations or individuals located in the U.S., 5 percent by German organizations, and 4 percent each by Canadian and Japanese organizations. These results are similar to statistics compiled in 1999. The distribution of languages across Web content has changed very little since 1999: About 75 percent of all public sites in 2001 contained some content in English, 7 percent in German, and 5 percent in Japanese.

Analysis of the organizations providing content on public Web sites indicated that the largest proportion—about 16 percent— is associated with information industries, including Internet service providers, commercial publishers, software companies, and online information services. Professional and technical consultants—ranging from Web site and software designers to lawyers and accountants—comprised the second largest proportion at 14 percent. Retailers were also widely represented in the sample at 12 percent.

More information about the OCLC Web Characterization Project is available at

WorldCat Enhancements
WorldCat's improvements include new icons on the search and results screens that indicate the physical format of materials in the records. These improvements increase visibility for the wide variety of resources OCLC member libraries have collected and cataloged in WorldCat.

According to the announcement, the addition of icons representing the major physical formats in WorldCat as search limiters will help users more easily target searches to materials in particular formats, such as books or videotapes. More detailed format information in search results will enable easy identification of the most relevant items in results lists.

OCLC is also adding tables of contents, cover art, book summaries, and notes about authors to bibliographic records for current popular material. Users can find these new features on a full-record display. This descriptive content in WorldCat is provided by Ingram Library Services, one of the world's largest book and video distributors.

Users may also search for a particular language using a list of the 30 most-common languages in WorldCat or the full list of more than 400 languages present in the database. In addition, users can now pinpoint items in WorldCat that are held in their own local libraries.

"By responding to requests from our users, OCLC is making WorldCat easier to use and more valuable to libraries," said Frank Hermes, OCLC's vice president of marketing and planning. "OCLC supports the position of libraries as premier information providers by providing their users with better and more intuitive tools to find what they are looking for. These enhancements to FirstSearch will help users identify and focus on the resources in their search for information."

Source: OCLC, Dublin, OH, 614/764-6000;

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