Version 2/9/05
You will note that there are links from many of the words and phrases in this text (hyperlinked.) By clicking on these links, an additional browser window will open. Many of these links will take you to a Dictionary of Terms, in order to explain the word/phrase (other links take you to other relevant documents.) The purpose of the Dictionary of Terms is to allow many users, with different levels of knowledge, to benefit from the text. If there is a term in the text you feel should be better explained, please e-mail me at and I will include it.

Internet, and Multimedia

The internet is truly a multimedia medium, that includes a number of different modes of communication. These modes of communication:
  1. E-mail
  2. Usenet News and Discussion Boards
  3. Chat
  4. Blogs
  5. Instant Messaging
  6. WWW
offer different advantages, and require different considerations. Before we focus on WWW, it is instructive to understand these different media, their advantages and their user "rules".

E-mail is a method of asynchronous communication. Thus the receiver does not have to be "present" when the sender sends the message, in order to respond. This is similar to regular mail and fax communication, but unlike the telephone (unless you consider voice-mail). The cost of this method of communication is clearly less prohibitive, and scales well, in terms of using mailing lists etc. Thus the cost of an additional copy (marginal cost) of the same e-mail, sent to multiple users, is zero. This is clearly not the case for regular direct mail campaigns where there is a cost associated with the material and stamp for each additional unit sent. This is also a reason why we are subjected to so much spam.

It is very important to observe netiquette when using e-mail for direct mail campaigns. A marketer can develop an opt-in mechanism, where customers actually "subscribe" to a mailing list to be updated on information (although sometimes we subscribe, when we really do not intend to)! When using e-mail for marketing purposes, it is also important to consider the following:

  1. The 'From' field. The from field is important for your customer, as it can establish trust. Many e-mail programs allow you to select a from field name. People are more likely to read e-mail from people they know and organizations they trust.
  2. Use of the subject header. This is very important marketing real estate, don't waste it. The subject header may determine whether the e-mail is read.
  3. Use of the signature file. This serves as the equivalent of your letter head, although it appears at the bottom of the e-mail rather than the top!
  4. Make sure people on mailing lists have a simple (and effective) means to unsubscribe.
  5. Rich media e-mail vs. plain text? Weigh the trade-offs, in terms of those that can access rich media e-mail and have a more interactive experience with the e-mail versus those that do not. There is technology available that allows the e-mail sender to determine if the receiver is able to view rich media e-mail. This allows the sender to send the appropriate type of e-mail to each recipient.
  6. Use of autoresponders. Since e-mail is asynchronous, a company receiving e-mail needs to notify the sender that it has been received, and potential actions and timeframes for a response. This will avoid undue uncertainty for the customer.
  7. Frequency of e-mail. It is important to determine the correct level of frequency in terms of how often you e-mail a specific e-mail list.
Spam is becoming an increasing problem when one is relying on e-mail for communications. Spam has essentially made the end user's in box a less reliable tool for receiving communications as it can either overwhelm the user's in box (and therefore the recipient spends less time reading the right e-mail) or it can block the e-mail from entering the appropriate in box.

Usenet News and Discussion Boards
I have considered these together, not because they function in the same, but they serve the same purposes. These are also a form of asynchronous communication. But unlike e-mail, which allows for one-to-one, or one-to-many (e-mail lists) communication, these allow for many to many communication. Usenet news groups were very popular before the WWW was developed, and are described in Demystifying the Internet (1996). Discussion boards, which are a part of WWW, have somewhat replaced the news groups. Discussion boards allow your customers to share their feedback, not just with the organization, but with each other. While this may seem foolhardy, if the company is not prepared to host this type of conversation, it will occur elsewhere on the internet, and will be more difficult to follow. As happy customers can be a company's best advocate, hosting the conversations seems to be a useful idea. Discussion boards can therefore play an important role in viral marketing.

It is not just as simple as putting up a discussion board, it is very important to test the design usability (user interface) of the discussion board, so that people will be encouraged to use them. It is important to note that all the participants of the discussion board, and more importantly the administrators of the discussion board, are considered part of the entire system. Thus for the system to be effective, all elements have to be effective. The discussion board also needs to be integrated clearly with other marketing materials and web site.

Discussion boards take advantage of network effects thus the more active the users, the more valuable the discussion board system is to each user. With ineffective design (and poor integration), they will not attract the needed critical mass of users, thus not adding value to anyone. Conversely, it is important to consider how scalable the design is. While the discussion board may be easy to use and navigate with few postings, is this the case when more postings are added? Is it easy to follow a single discussion thread, to return to a thread, to identify which threads are active and which are not? Many discussion board designs are ineffective. The paper Discussion Boards, Chat Rooms and the Power of Transparency describes the use of discussion boards in one particular case (business school admissions), yet the examples and rules are applicable elsewhere. Discussion boards and news groups are also prone to spam.

Chat is another feature of WWW. This is a form of synchronous communication, thus people participating have to be at the "event" at the designated time. These are good for brainstorming sessions, or to simply gather people together quickly. Chat sessions are not particularly scalable, thus not too many people can attend at one time, before it becomes chaotic. When chatting its also important to consider three things:

  1. Keep your sentences/comments short. If you spend a long time crafting text, the session will have moved on, and it will become disjointed.
  2. When answering a question, or directing a question/thought, use the username's first letter to express to whom you are referring. Since we lose the visual queues of a live conversation, this will help each chat participant understand the flow of conversations.
  3. Make sure the chat has an agenda or clear purpose. This will help guide the flow of the discussions. Without this, the chat will be chaotic at best.
  4. Be consistent with a schedule. Better to offer chat sessions at the same time of day, week, month etc. than to vary the times. Thus users will learn when you will host sessions.
Web logs (blogs) are an emerging form of communication on the web, allowing private individuals to easily create a website that allows the individual to comment on things as broad as life in general and as specific as an experience with a particular company (and google seems well adapted for indexing these sites regularly). Blogs also form community as bloggers typically link to other bloggers with similar interests. Use of blogging by organizations is not yet well developed, but there are interesting possibilities --- it makes updating the site less complex and can allow customers to provide feedback etc. Use of RSS is becoming an interesting alternative to push content out and avoid spam. While this will work for news organizations (such as CNN etc.) it has become a popular way to keep up with blogs.

Instant Messaging
Instant messaging is a form of synschronous communication that allows users, on the same network (AOL Instant Messenger or MSN Messenger for example) to send short messages to each other while concurrently logged onto the internet. Instant messaging is somewhat similar in behavior to text messaging over mobile phones, which is widely adopted in europe and non-network specific. Both applications (IM and text messaging) are relatively new and from a business marketing standpoint, not well developed. ***Discussion Topic: Discuss your particular good and bad experiences with Chat Discussion Boards or e-mail, and your recommendations for their effective use.

***Discussion Topic: If you have used Instant Messaging (text messaging), describe its advantages and limitations versus the above.

The remainder of this text will refer to WWW at large.

WWW Multimedia: Graphics, Sound and Hypertext

WWW is a multimedia medium. Thus WWW takes advantage of graphics, text, sound and video in a hypertext environment. This allows for excellent presentation of material without consumers experiencing information overload. As consumers interact with a web-site, they can select the information they desire, without being exposed to information that is not relevant. Conversely, marketers can display an exhaustive amount of information without being concerned with creating consumer information overload (assuming good design). Each consumer can therefore access the information that is relevant to him/her, all from the same source of information (the marketer's web-site).

WWW also allows marketers to acquire feedback from consumers, and allows customers to add content to the marketer's site or the wider web. There are six instances where this can occur:

  1. E-mail/WWW forms
    This can be through E-mail requests directly to the marketer or by completing a form (survey) which sends the information to the marketer. It is very important that if you implement an E-mail option for consumers to use, that there is an adequate response infrastructure in place, and also an autoresponse mechanism. Improving the communication access to the organization is half a step, to complete it the organization must respond in a timely manner. It is super critical not to set up an expectation of answering e-mail, when the resources are not there to make sure e-mail is being answered. One should also consider if this is the best use of feedback from the customer (hiding that feedback from other customers/potential customers). It may be more worthwhile to allow customers to share their feedback directly on the site, using discussion boards, so other customers can see the feedback, learn from it, or/and share their thoughts. Customers can answer each others' questions, and therefore become an extension of the customer service effort.

  2. Feedback directly to the site
    Marketers can develop parts of their site that allow for feedback from consumers (typically discussion boards). This can help create a community among a marketer's target audiences. This is the only medium that allows for a community development process and there are some compelling reasons as to why this should be beneficial to the marketer. By facilitating customer interaction, the one common thread between all those interacting is your product, this can therefore enhance brand loyalty. If the interactive experience is very good, then customers will return to the site for the interaction as well as for product information. This gives additional reasons for customers to be at your site and therefore helps you create more exposure for your brand.

  3. Feedback on the web (but not on own web-site)
    Industry-related discussion boards and blogs serve as media for your customers to share feedback and questions with each other. It may be a good thing to get involved in the dialogue. Similarly individual customers may be discussing your business practices on their own blog. Make good use of google to track any unsolicited feedback that other customers may be seeing.

  4. Log data
    Marketers can analyze the log data of the site to see how each visitor navigates the site. This information can prove very valuable to the marketer in developing the site and it is unique to an interactive medium like WWW. Information that a marketer can get about those accessing the site includes the referring URL (how they came to the site, and each link within the site), the number of pages a visitor views, which are the most popular pages and more. Sitemeter is a free web resource that can be easily implemented to view traffic to any web site.

  5. Cookie files
    Marketers are also able to interact with a file on the consumers web-browser, known as a cookie file. This allows a marketer to identify each customer as an individual and record information in the cookie file such that when the customer returns (assuming the same web browser) the marketer can recognize this and present information appropriately.

  6. Subscriptions/Logons
    A second method of identifying individual visitors as they enter the site is to use a subscription form or logon form to gain a customer's unique id and password. By having the visitor give you demographic information and selecting a unique password to access the site, you can tailor the site when the customer accesses the site and when s/he returns. The need for subscription and the gathering of data needs to be weighed against the cost, as asking a browser to provide information may dissuade the browser to explore further and encourage an exit.
***Discussion Topic: Use google to find customer comments about a company that you do business with as a consumer.

1-to-1 Marketing

Interaction allows for a 1-to-1 experience between the browser and the marketer. Traditionally, products have been marketed using a top-down 1 to many (mass marketing) strategy or more recently 1-to-few (target marketing) strategy. WWW allows for a more effective 1-to-1 marketing strategy. Thus the marketer can market to each individual's needs, not to the broad needs of a target audience. This is very important in a highly competitive marketplace where the "customer is king!" There are two levels of 1-to-1 marketing that can be achieved via the web:

  1. The individual visitor to a web site is able to navigate the site to satisfy his/her informational needs. These needs are unique to the individual, and hence the indivual's path through the site is unique. Each visitor is free to take control over his/her navigational path, framed around the structure and design of the web-site. The information the individual receives is thus unique to that individual and to that session.

  2. At a more sophisticated level, the actual site that the visitor accesses can be unique to the individual. This is achieved by taking advantage of the visitor's cookie file or using a subscription/logon form (noted above). Once the individual visitor is identified as unique, and information is stores regarding the visitor's previous navigational patterns (and demographic data from subscription forms) then the site can be designed for a unique experience. This is the same site that can reach the entire WWW audience. does this well.

Location and Target Market / Reach

WWW is a global medium. Thus you are able to reach someone on the other side of the globe as easily as you are able to reach someone in your geographic area. The cost of achieving this reach is also the same as reaching a local audience. This is a significant departure from traditional media where cost is strongly correlated with the breadth of reach a marketer can achieve. WWW's global reach presents the following issues:
  1. The ability for a small firm to broaden its target audience(s).
    Because there are significant barriers to entry in developing a global market using traditional media, global markets are the province of large companies. WWW now gives small companies the ability to communicate with a global audience. Small companies can now take advantage of the economies of scale of marketing to a broader audience. Despite the gains in being able to communicate on a global scale, logistics and distribution are still clear limiting factors. Small companies need to question if they are able to trade around the world, and if not, is their site designed to suggest this?

  2. The ability of a global firm to enhance its marketing effort.
    Firms that already compete in the global market place should be able to use WWW to enhance their communication processes. This can be done internally (using an intranet), developing better communication with channel intermediaries (using an extranet) or by using WWW to communicate with customers and potential customers worldwide.

  3. The dilemma that a global company may experience with traditional regional marketing strategies.
    Many global companies develop marketing strategies on a regional basis (since geography was a limiting factor). This can present some problems since a WWW user can get WWW information from WWW servers around the world (no geographic limiting factor) and could access a company's U.S. marketing information when based in Europe and visa versa. This information will be different from the traditional European marketing information. The difference could be in the brand name, cost of product (and / or any aspect of the marketing mix). This is an issue that extends to global internal information (intranets). Employees from around the world may be able to access internal information that they wouldn't previously have been able to access.

Product Type

There are certain types of products that make "more" sense in terms of a WWW presence than others. Thus they can really take advantage of the flexibility of WWW, and its ability to accomplish multiple marketing goals (advertising, product information, transactions and customers service). The characteristics of these products include:
  1. Information rich products; later stages of the purchasing process
    Products that require a consumer to undergo significant research before making a purchasing decision can be considered information rich products. WWW allows marketers to present detailed information about products that the consumer can interact with in his/her own time. Examples of such products are electronic (Sony) cars (Volvo) and mortgages. Consumers feel very uncomfortable walking into a car show room with no real knowledge as to the value of a car, new design features available etc., especially if they feel that they will experience a persistent salesperson. There is a natural information asymmetry, the salesperson knows more about the product than the customer, the customer is in a weak bargaining position. It has been suggested that consumers would rather visit the dentist than a car show room!! By allowing consumers to become more informed about the product, they can then go to the showroom to make a purchasing decision on their own terms.

    WWW is not a useful medium for generating awareness with your product, but is very useful for educating a potential customer who is deciding which brand to buy. Thus the website address should be noted in other marketing material as you create awareness for your product. Once customers are interested, that can then gravitate to your web presence for more detailed information. As they move further down their decision making process, the site should allow potential customers to acquire further information, interact with other customers and so forth. It is well understood that consumers move through different stages of a decision making process (awareness --> interest --> desire --> action, for example). The web is well positioned, and flexible enough to work well with the last three steps, and for the first step other media can draw consumers to your web presence.

  2. New Products
    WWW is a useful medium for marketing new products. There are a couple of reasons for this. Because consumers will need a certain amount of education before purchasing a new product WWW allows consumers to interact and receive a lot of information. More importantly, WWW is effective for pioneering products (those new to the marketplace, products that create new marketplaces) because the type of person that uses WWW to research products is an innovator (or perhaps early adopter) and is a relatively sophisticated with information consumption. These types of consumers tend to purchase new products (and take more risks doing so) sooner than other target markets who tend to like to see others purchase the product first and then make a decision (less risk oriented; early majority, late majority and laggards).

  3. Business-2-Business
    Business-to-business products are well suited for WWW. They rely on deep relationships with fewer customers (when compared with business to consumer). These relationships can be supported by WWW and extended further. Companies are inclined to establish extranets between themselves and their business partners to reduce the friction associated with repetitive transactions.

  4. Technical products
    Since WWW is an emerging "high tech" medium, those that access it are more likely to be technically literate and therefore more likely to purchase technology products.

  5. Lifestyle products
    Products that offer convenience to demanding lifestyles will also appeal to the type of consumer that accesses WWW.
***Discussion Topic: Buying experience: What "type" of products have you purchased over the web. What products have you NOT considered buying?

Channel Power

There are two key issues that are of concern with channel power.
  1. Disintermediation
    Channels of distribution are changing. A typical channel that may have had three levels (distributor, wholesaler and retailer) may perhaps only have one physical level. The reason for a shorter channel is that companies are able to take on tasks that were traditionally performed more efficiently by specialists (tasks related to matching manufacturers needs for economies of scale and customers' needs for variety). WWW is allowing for more efficient communication from large marketers to individual customers (1-to-1 marketing) thus making intermediaries whose strength often times is their customer base, redundant, and therefore an added expense to the marketing effort. Marketers also have an incentive to reach directly to their customers as they can then get detailed information about those that purchase the product (usually information that intermediaries could gather and use as collateral when bargaining with manufacturers). Traditional channels are thus getting disintermediated.

    The emergence of new infomediaries to replace intermediaries supports the notion that channels are not necessarily shrinking in terms of the number of entities involved, but the entities are very different.

    The above issue also creates the potential for channel conflict with traditional intermediaries who may be needed in the medium term to support current business, but see the potential for cannibalization. How companies manage this conflict may determine their success in the long term.

  2. Power shift from the marketer to the consumer
    The consumer interacts with WWW giving him/her greater control over the processing of information. Since consumers can control what they see, when they want to see it, and spend as much time viewing the information as they wish, this further changes the balance from the marketer to the consumer. Traditional media "pushes" information to consumers when it is appropriate to satisfy the goals of a marketing program. Consumers had little choice regarding when they are going to experience a marketing message from a particular company (although they may be able to zap it when it appears!!)

    Consumers interaction with WWW can go as far as "voicing" their opinions regarding a marketer's product either at the marketer's site, or more significantly on an industry related website or at the consumer's site. (Marketers do not have sole right to publish information on WWW, an upset WWW consumer can be a pretty interesting foe!)

***Discussion Topic: Describe industries hit w/ disintermediation.

Information Currency and Delivery

WWW is an effective medium if there is a need to change the marketing information on a regular basis. Because the information is "hosted" with the marketer, the marketer has access to change the information when it is appropriate and when the consumer accesses the information, s/he will always be accessing the most current set of information. Thus not only is it simple to update the information, the information is available globally as soon as it is updated (no distribution costs and time delays). If you are a manufacturer of products that are distributed worldwide and require current documentation at all time, WWW is more efficient than traditional methods of distribution (mail). If this information is proprietary, simply use an intranet rather than the open web. Using RSS to push information out to subscribers is an interesting alternative for distributing information (dynamic content) across the web.

It is important that WWW marketers do keep their information current. Outdated information is not acceptable practise if you want to create a positive affinity with your customers and potential customers.

Level of involvement

WWW is still a fraction of the advertising dollars that are spent yearly (compared with TV, Radio etc.). However WWW is the first medium that allows marketers to move beyond simple advertising and retailing and allows them to get more involved with the medium itself and offer a much richer marketing program. Levels of involvement in WWW as a medium can be classified as followed:
  1. Minimum presence: advertising medium (banners only)
    Developing an advertising banner campaign on WWW would be similar to developing an advertising campaign with a more traditional medium. It takes no advantage of the interactive nature of the medium and is poor use of WWW.

  2. Web-site only
    Many marketers have developed web-sites on WWW. This is their central information point on WWW. The focal point of a WWW advertising campaign and the broader (off-line) marketing program.

  3. Web-site and ad banner campaign
    This is the most involved level of a WWW presence. A web-site that serves as the focal point, with banner ads strategically placed on other sites that are used as gateways to the web-site or to target sites that link between the banner advertisement and the web-site. Target sites are particularly useful if the banner advertisement is pushing a particular promotion and the target details the promotion and links to the marketer's web-site.

The presence allows companies to accomplish multiple marketing goals:

***Discussion Topic: Given the web allows for multiple marketing goals, is it fair to say other media (TV, radio etc.) are only limited to advertising?

Who accesses WWW and Why?

Cyberatlas is a great resource for keeping current with the populations accessing WWW, and what people are doing with this medium.

***Discussion Topic: After spending some time at Cyberatlas, share some interesting statistics, or behavioral patterns.

Issues Regarding the Growth Potential

Access to WWW is still limited. Limited access translates into limited marketing opportunities for companies who want to use WWW as part of their marketing program. In order to understand the real value of WWW, we should spend some time considering the issues that are limiting WWW access and the prospects for growth in the future.
  1. WWW is an eletist medium, due to cost and complexity.
    Cost of access limits the size of WWW audience. One has to buy a computer, modem and access in order to use WWW. Those that do not own a computer have to incur a significant cost to access WWW. MSN TV and other similar TV appliances that allow viewers to access WWW through the TV (a current appliance) will help broaden the WWW audience. Computer hardware (and software) is starting to become much less expensive over the last couple of years, reducing this barrier somewhat.

    Complexity is another issue. Technophobia plagues all those who are not comfortable in front of a computer. The perception that WWW is complex to those that don't access WWW hinders the growth of WWW. TV viewing is much less complex than WWW browsing, thus WWW access to the mass population will lag TV access significantly. The design of computers further compounds this issue, as the competition in this industry is focused on feature development, rather than on fundamental design usability. Once computers adopt a human-centric design paradigm, mass market acceptance will accelerate.

  2. Speed of information.
    The infrastructure that supports the Internet and WWW is finding it difficult to deal with the current volume of traffic. As the size of WWW grows (the number of webservers and information on webservers) as well as the size of the audience of WWW grows, the system becomes over burdened and in some cases slows to a grinding holt. The instant gratification that browsers require makes it necessary to develop an infrastructure that supports the size of the system at speed. As can be expected in situations of high growth, demand for the system is overwhelming the development of the infrastructure behind the system.

    The "last-mile" connection issue also presents a bottleneck to the internet. This refers to the users' connection to the ISP, which has not been a competitive marketplace, thus the advances in technology have been stifled. While many consumers still rely on a 56k modem, more and more are getting access to a cable modem or DSL access, both types of broadband access help reduce this issue.

    With the potential unleashed with wireless access WWW will become ubiquitous.

  3. Security and Privacy.
    Security issues have also slowed the adoption of WWW as a marketing medium. Although Security and Privacy may have little impact on the number of users who access WWW, it certainly effects what someone wants to do once they are on WWW. Electronic commerce, while evolving, is likely to become a significant form of retailing in the future. This will only happen when security issues are resolved and the perception (from a consumer's stand point) is that WWW is secure. Similarly, as concerns about privacy are resolved, web customer adoption will increase.

Top-Down vs. Mediated Environment

The barriers to entry for WWW as a communications medium are significantly less than more traditional marketing media (TV, Radio, Newspapers etc.) For a small investment a marketer can establish an effective web-site as the focal point of its entire marketing effort. This is enabling (small) companies, that find other media cost prohibitive, to compete.

WWW is also freeing up the publishing market which has traditionally been the territory of the very few (those that can afford it). Now small publishing companies are evolving and individuals have the ability to use WWW to "publish" information (blogging and RSS for example).

What information can be found on the web?

There is a vast amount of information available on WWW. This information covers topics of all areas, from all cultures from all around the world. Because there is so much information available on WWW the following dilemma is evolving.

Much Information x Poor Information Search Techniques = Little Information

Thus we need to understand the nature of WWW, what kind of information is available, and how to efficiently search for that information.

Distributed Medium

As previously discussed WWW is a distributed medium. Information sources are worldwide and are hosted on any of the millions of WWW servers. Imagine trying to decide which TV station to watch if your TV allowed you to surf 20 million channels! Because the information is distributed in such a fashion, it becomes a real problem for those that try to "catalog" WWW in order to provide efficient indexing and information retrieval for browsers. And once a "catalog" has been developed, then updating it becomes a real headache, not only would you have to be aware of new information from existing servers, but you would also need to develop a mechanism for accounting for new servers. Servers are becoming very simple to install. This compounds the problem further.

Cost of Publishing

Because there are significant barriers to entry in traditional media markets this limits the number of "publishers" to a very few. Those that can afford the capital outlay and on going expense to compete. Because this is a significant investment, the value of the material that is published must also be considered significant, at least to a particular target audience which finances the endevour (either by subscription, pay per view or third party advertising). This is a good "checks and balances" mechanism to make sure that, in general, what is published off-line does carry some value, to somebody.

While the low cost of entering WWW offers the real benefit of opening up the WWW market to small businesses, publishers and individuals, this also presents a real dilemma. Many WWW publishers can create a lot of information, and since the cost to publish is very low, the return on investment needed is also very low, deeming a lot of the information on WWW only relevant to the very few (or only the author). Thus much WWW information is of no value to the WWW audience, but is still a viable publishing proposition from an economic (utility) standpoint.

Author Indexing Control

Another issue that complicates the quality of information available to browse is that the author of the web material, to some extent, can control the "indexing" process of a site. By using relevant keywords, and META tags that can hide irrelevant (but very popular) keywords, the author can try to manipulate when the site appears to a browser, searching for information. You can see how to do this HTML Tips: Part 4. This will be discussed in greater detail when we focus on marketing a web-site, but it does create a problem for the objective indexing of sites. Thus when you search using a particular keyword some of your results may bear no (or very little) relevance to the search term in question. If that is the case, click on the view source option to see if keywords have been placed in the source document, but don't appear in the WWW document.

Search Engines

The main method of searching for information on WWW is to access a search engine. It is probably appropriate to become familiar with a couple of search engines and use them as you primary starting search point. Note Google and Yahoo are the principle search engines, in that order.

The first thing you should understand is that search engines queries are not searching WWW, but search a database that they maintain containing WWW URLs and keywords. These databases are updated regularly (how regularly depends on which search engine) by using a "spider" that "crawls" WWW to find new sites. Each search engine's database probably has less than 30% of WWW indexed. Thus each search engine's database is going to be different, not because they are searching different things (they are all searching WWW) but because they search WWW at different times and update their databases at different times. Remember, WWW is a distributed medium, new WWW sites are created continuously, everywhere. Search engines will crawl new sites at different times and may overlook sites unless the author submits the URL to the engine.

The results that each engine provides, based on keyword searches, will also differ. The results are dependent on the comprehensiveness of the database (of which there will be a difference) and the method of searching through the databases. It is very important, therefore, if you want to undertake a quality search for a particular topic, to understand how to search the database of the search engine. The following will give you some good overall pointers.

Search Engines, Some Basic Guides

These tips are broken down to simple searches and advanced searches.

Simple Search Guidelines

  1. How are listings ranked?
    The output will be ranked in order of relevance. Relevance is roughly determined by the number of keywords devided by the number of words in the document (or a formula similar to this). Also important (depending on search engines) is whether the keyword(s) appear(s) in the title of the document, or generally how "high" in the document keyword(s) appear.
  2. Use multiple words in a search
    Using multiple words will help refine a search. Be aware however, do not use general words that will identify documents that are irrelevant. When using multiple words the search will look for all documents that contain all the words first, but will also find documents that contain only some of the words, or just one. Thus if you are looking for MBA programs, by keying in mba program, you are looking for documents with the phrase mba program in it, and look for all documents with the word program in it. You will get documents that cover psychology programs, and computer programming guides (there are probably many of these)! If you want to ask the search engine to only look for the phrase MBA Program, then use quotes as follows: "mba program". This tells the search engine to only list documents with the phrase MBA Program in it, a more precise search.
  3. When to capitalize letters
    If you use capital letters then the results must be capitalized in a similar fashion. Hence a search for houses using the the keyword House will find documents containing the keyword House but not house. Conversely, if you use small letters then the search results are case insensitive. Therefore a search using the term house will find documents containing the words house House and/or HOUSE. When you are searching for a proper name, it makes sense to capitalize the first letter of the name, since it will be capitalized in the documents you are interested in.
  4. *
    Using the wild card character * you can use partial words for your search. This is very useful if you are not sure of the spelling of a word. You must include four letters in the search for this to work. For example, a search using the word "catah* leopard" will look for the breed of dog, Catahula Leopard, or Catahoula Leopard.
  5. - +
    By putting the -sign infront of a word, you are asking that that word not appear in the documents of the results list, a +sign indicates the word must appear. Make sure not to leave a space between the sign and the word. The search -thoroughbred +horse asks that the search engine produces all documents that include the word horse, but not thoroughbred.

Advanced Searches

You can use more advanced search techniques using boolean search operators. These commands allow you to include words, not include words and other, more complex, options. These commands are case insensitive. Make sure you select the advanced search option to use these commands.
  1. OR
    By using the OR between two keywords you are asking the search engine to look for either word or both words. This is basically the same as a simple search where the results priortize when both terms appear, then when either term appears.
  2. AND
    This command asks that both words appear in the results of the search, in either order.
  3. NOT
    This will exclude a word or a phrase that follows the command.
  4. ()
    Brackets allow you to combine search terms as follows:
    (cat OR dog) AND collar This will look for articles that includes the phrase cat collar or dog collar.


Directories are generally more specialized areas to search (Yahoo! is an exception, and considered more like a search engine). The top of the heirarchy is very general, the further down the hierarchy you navigate, the more specific your search. This is generally how a directory is designed. The deeper in the directory you are, the more specific the search. Directories usually specialize in a particular area, and are therefore niche search areas. Often times, you will find them from your more general searches using one of the above search engines.

Structural Issues

WWW can be thought of as comprising four main components:
  1. Content
  2. Browsers
  3. Servers
  4. Access
HyperText Markup Language is the industry standard language that is used to develop WWW documents. This language was developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Switzerland. HTML is developed and approved by the W3C. It is available free to use. Click on the view option of your Internet Explorer/Netscape browser and scroll down to the view source option to view the HTML code that was used to create this document. This ability to view the source document makes learning the HTML language relatively simple. The need to learn the language is diminished by the use of WYSIWYG HTML text programs. I prefer you to learn the language by following these HTML Tips. Sites that operate databases and animation use more advanced programs such as CGI and Java. It is the task of W3C to make sure these new technologies remain interoperable with HTML.

XML and CSS info to add here.

Script languages can be used to serve html pages, common examples include php and asp. These filenames end with a file extension other than html (or htm), but are still html pages.

"Browsers" are the client-side software programs that are used to view WWW documents. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is currently the dominant browser, while Netscape was the pioneer (lost first mover advantage, but still retains some marketshare). The reason both work with most HTML design is due to the fact that HTML is an open standard. To put the HTML and browser in simple context you can use the metaphor of the television. You have programs (developed content) and TV sets (browsers).

Servers host the content that is developed for WWW. Thus with the TV metaphor, servers resemble TV stations that own and store the content to be broadcast.

The fourth component is the access provider. To continue our TV metaphor, the access provider is similar to your local cable company (assuming that you need a cable company to provide you access to the network and cable TV). An Internet user generally has access from two distinct sources:

  • Work/School, using a corporate or school account
  • Home, using an internet service provider (ISP)

    The marketplace for commercial internet service providers is very competitive. The types of companies involved can be categorized as follows:

  • Major service providers such as:
  • Telephone companies such as AT&T
  • Local Internet Service Providers such as Erols, Panix, Earthlink and some Local Delaware providers.