|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.
"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
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; http://www.oclc.org.