Information on the Web

According to Peter R. Young of the Library of Congress, in 2001 there were:

  • 29 million Internet users
  • generating $6 trillion in e-commerce
  • and 35 billion e-mails daily.¹

Young also stated that

  • only 16% of resources are indexed by any single popular search engine (such as Google or Yahoo!)
  • and that 83% of the sites indexed contain commercial content
  • versus the 6% that are educational or scientific.

And that was 2001!

an illustration depicting the Web's variety and lack of structure or organization
The Web: a mass of unorganized information ranging from
scholarly articles to "Joe Smith's Home Page"

There are some important things to keep in mind when you are looking for information on the Web:

  • The Web has no overriding organizational scheme or structure.
  • Unlike most electronic databases, there is no indexing by topic or subject for billions of Web pages.
  • Although some information on the Web is "free" (i.e., it can be accessed without restrictions, passwords, fees, etc.), many resources on the Web require subscriptions. For example, some newspapers only allow free access to selected articles and require registration and payment for the entire issue.
  • It is also important to remember that information on the Web is not screened or edited. Since anyone can publish a Web page, the type and quality of material varies greatly.
  • Anybody can put anything on the Web—and they do! Be cautious.

Another way to think about the Web is to imagine that it is an immense, world-wide flea market. If you take some time and are persistent, you will find some real gems of information at the Web flea market, but you may have to sift through a lot of junk first.

¹ Peter Young presented this information at the 4th Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, 13 August 2001.

Chapter 6 — Page 3