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WebWatch: An Update on Search Engines Used in UK University Web Sites

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Brian Kelly provides an update of his survey of search engines used in UK Universities.

The initial survey of search engines used on UK University Web sites was carried out during July and August 1999 and the findings were reported in Ariadne issue 21 [1]. Since then the survey has been updated approximately every six months, which allows trends to be identified. In this article we review the trends since the initial survey was carried out.

Current Findings

The most recent update to the survey was carried out in June 2003. The survey now shows that the most widely used search engine is still ht://Dig which is now used in over 54 institutions. This is followed by Google (21 institutions) and a Microsoft product (19 institutions). A summary of the findings is given in Table 1.

Survey Date: June 2003

 

Search Engine

Number

Comments

1

ht://Dig

54

 

2

Google

21

 

3

Microsoft

19

This includes a number of search engines which are hosted on a Microsoft platform

4

Inktomi/Ultraseek

12

 

5

ColdFusion

4

This includes a number of search engines which are hosted on a ColdFusion application platform

6

Thunderstone's Webinator

4

 
 

Other

21

This includes search engines used in 3 or fewer Web sites

 

None

15

This may include Web sites in which the search facility was not easily found

Table 1: Search Engines Used in UK University Web Sites

The full survey findings [2] are available .

In 1999 a wide range of search engines were in use, as can be seen from the original findings [3]. There is now a clear market leader (ht://Dig), followed, at some distance by Google. These are followed by a Microsoft search engine. It should be noted that this category is slightly misleading as it is likely that several different search engines are included in this category - however it is difficult to distinguish between different types of search engines hosted on a Microsoft platform.

It is interestng to make a comparison with the initial survey. A summary of the findings is shown in the following table.

Survey Date: July/August 1999

 

Search Engine

Number

Comments

1

ht://Dig

25

 

2

eXcite

19

 

3

Microsoft

12

This includes a number of Microsoft search engines

4

Harvest

8

 

5

Ultraseek

7

 

6

SWISH/SWISH-E

5

 

7

Thunderstone's Webinator

4

 
 

Other

20

This includes search engines used in 3 or fewer Web sites. A total of 15 different search engines are in this category

 

None

59

This may include Web sites in which the search facility was not easily found

Table 2: Search Engines Used in UK University Web Sites (Initial Survey)

Discussion

We can see that the ht://Dig has consolidated its position as the most popular search engine. As ht://Dig is an open source solution this would appear to confirm the views of the open source community on two of the main attractions of open source software: the availability of source code allows developments to be easily made and its zero (capital) cost provides a cost-effective solution.

However anecdotal evidence suggests that ht://Dig's popularity is not due to the availability of the source code. Indeed the growth in popularity of Google (which is free to use, although it is not an open source solution) would appear to suggest that the free cost of search engines software is an important factor.

From these findings one might deduce that institutions are happy with the service provided by ht://Dig. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that institutions find the ht://Dig software limited in its usefulness. ht://Dig is probably a safe solution, but not the best solution.

Perhaps the most interesting development since the initial survey has been the growth in popularity of Google. Google is an externally hosted application, meaning that the search software and the data are hosted remotely and that institutions have no control over the software. However Google, the most popular global search engine for the Web, is renowned for its speed of response. It is very easy to make use of Google to provide an institutional search facility - this simply requires a completed Web form; no software needs to be installed. Use of Google is free for the University sector.

Another trend we are beginning to see is the use of more than one search engine. Several institutions make use of ht://Dig and Google, which provides users with a choice of search engines, and provides a degree of redundancy in case one search engine is unavailable.

What of the Future?

What trends might we expect to see in the future? Can we expect institutions to stabilise on the current market leaders or might we see volatility with the deployment of new products or new approaches?

It is clear that use of Dublin Core metadata has not taken off to any significant extent within conventional Web sites to provide enhanced searching facilities. However there does appear to be interest in better ways of providing searching, perhaps through approaches such as knowledge management and data mining. Other issues to consider include the integration of Web search facilities with searching of non-Web databases such as Library OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogues), VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) , etc. and integration with remote search facilities such as Google, the RDN (Resource Discovery Network)[4], etc.

Perhaps the safest approach to take is to expect change and to ensure that any approaches provided today can be migrated to new technologies in the future with the minimum of disruption.

References

  1. UK University Search Engines, Ariadne issue 21, Sept 1999
    http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/webwatch/
  2. Survey Of UK HE Institutional Search Engines - June 2003, UKOLN
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/surveys/uk-he-search-engines/2003-06/
  3. WebWatch: UK University Search Engines Survey of UK HE Institutional Search Engines - Summer 1999,
    http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue21/webwatch/survey.html
  4. The Resource Discovery Network,
    http://www.rdn.ac.uk/

Author Details

photo (10KB): Picture of Brian Kelly Brian Kelly
UK Web Focus
UKOLN
University of Bath
Bath
BA2 7AY

Email: b.kelly@ukoln.ac.uk

Brian Kelly is UK Web Focus. He works for UKOLN, which is based at the University of Bath

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Article Title: "WebWatch: An Update of a Survey of Search Engines Used in UK University Web Sites"
Author: Brian Kelly
Publication Date: 30-July-2003
Publication: Ariadne Issue 36
Originating URL: http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/web-watch/

Date published: 
30 July 2003

This article has been published under copyright; please see our access terms and copyright guidance regarding use of content from this article. See also our explanations of how to cite Ariadne articles for examples of bibliographic format.

How to cite this article

Brian Kelly. "WebWatch: An Update on Search Engines Used in UK University Web Sites". July 2003, Ariadne Issue 36 http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue36/web-watch/


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