Web impact factors, the proposed web equivalent of impact factors for journals, can be calculated by using search engines. It has been found that the results are problematic because of the variable coverage of search engines as well as their ability to give significantly different results over short periods of time. The fundamental problem is that although some search engines provide a functionality that is capable of being used for impact calculations, this is not their primary task and therefore they do not give guarantees as to performance in this respect. In this paper, a bespoke web crawler designed specifically for the calculation of reliable WIFs is presented. This crawler was used to calculate WIFs for a number of UK universities, and the results of these calculations are discussed. The principal findings were that with certain restrictions, WIFs can be calculated reliably, but do not correlate with accepted research rankings owing to the variety of material hosted on university servers. Changes to the calculations to improve the fit of the results to research rankings are proposed, but there are still inherent problems undermining the reliability of the calculation. These problems still apply if the WIF scores are taken on their own as indicators of the general impact of any area of the Internet, but with care would not apply to online journals.
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