Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Keywords: WWW, Property, News, Research
Whilst predictions of growth in the Internet vary, one thing is certain - there will be significant growth, and with that change. Talk within the technology and media sectors is of growth and consolidation as those who provide services via the Internet compete to remain supreme.
With this growth, so the number of sites on the WWW increases. Figures recently published in the Financial Times (8 October 1999) from NUA Surveys (http://www.nua.ie/surveys) estimate that there are currently 201 million users online, worldwide, which they estimate will rise to 350 million by 2005.
Given all this change it seems appropriate to take a step back and to consider changes to some of the Web sites which have been reviewed in previous editorials and to consider some new entrants at the same time.
In the first editorial searching for Web sites was discussed, and the comment made that using search engines was often "time-consuming and wasteful", when a logical approach of typing in what might be an appropriate URL could find a site in next to no time. This still remains true. Recent figures estimate that the best search engine can only catalogue 16 per cent of publicly available Web sites, with all the main engines put together only capable of recording 42 per cent of Web pages, with a bias towards the USA. With continual growth many Web sites are unlikely to be found.
A recent entrant, "all the web" (http://www.alltheweb.com/), claims to use superior algorithms to catalogue the Web, and so to be able to find more sites than other search engines. On its launch it claimed to have catalogued 25 per cent of an estimated 800m URLs, with that percentage set to rise over time.
Since visiting the site, I have used it on a regular basis as a first port of call, given that the search facility is faster than competitors' but also provides better results. That is not to say garbage is thrown up, but the simple to use front end of typing in a keyword or phrase, and selecting the means of searching by "all the words", "any words" or "the exact phrase", make it easy to use. The page is also free of any advertising, providing less distraction.
The RICS (http://www.rics.org/) has recently made revisions to its Web site. Overall from the main page, the changes are generally cosmetic, with the key features remaining, e.g. "what's new", "events" and "research". Whilst changes are necessary to attract and maintain visitors, a number of people have remarked that, since the recent changes, they have found it difficult to find items they previously visited on a regular basis. One particular problem has been accessing the RICS conference papers, which were previously listed, and easily accessible. However, that ease of access has now gone. A recent search of the online library catalogue provided details of a conference paper. Using the search engine to find the paper I typed in some keywords from the title and found one link returned, which was not the paper! This is a shame, given that overall the RICS Web site has been an excellent source of information.
Two professional organisations to go online recently are the International Valuation Standards Committee (http://www.ivsc.org/) and the European Group of Valuers' Association (http://www.tegova.com). Whilst neither site is awe-inspiring, both provide an overview of their respective organisations, and information on members, publications and recent press releases, which may be of interest to property professionals.
The Government, too, has recently made changes to its site (http://www.open.gov.uk/). The main home page looks more modern and presentable, with the standard information locators available. As time goes by, so the level of information increases, providing valuable information on both national and local government. I was recently impressed by the "Topic" index which provides a range of links for a number of key topics including education, employment, environment and building.
Choosing the latter "building" option provided a breakdown of links, affording more specialist fields including architecture, building, finance and valuation. Under "building" were links to Web sites for the Building Research Establishment and the Planning Inspectorate. The valuation field had a link to the Valuation Office (http://www.voa.gov.uk). The site provides press releases on the valuation office, with a geographic map of the UK allowing visitors to select an area, providing a list of offices and contacts.
The media sector continues to remain competitive, with some new innovations. The ITN Web site (http://www.itn.co.uk) has improved, no doubt to compete with the BBC. Additions since the last review include a desktop ticker. Nevertheless, the BBC Web site (http://www.news.bbc.co.uk) remains the better of the two. At the time of writing, this site was undergoing some changes, and any improvements will be reported in due course. The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/) has recently revised its front page to include news updates during the day on business, UK and international news, making it more of a news site than simply the Internet version of the paper itself.
Across the Atlantic in the USA, CNN has made some improvements to its impressive Web site (http://cnn.com/). With the need to keep paper copies of information, CNN now provides a link enabling a "printer friendly" version of the article to be run off. This version removes much of the surrounding information providing the text and references, saving paper. Alternatively you can e-mail the article to a friend. Simply type in their e-mail address, and yours, with a message if necessary and the article is sent immediately, together with a link to the CNN site. This is a useful innovation for passing on news and likely to see wider use in the future. It is, for example, already used in the UK on the subscription based EGi.
It is also worth mentioning the MCB Web site (http://www.mcb.co.uk) which has also developed over the past year, providing information on all the journals in the MCB range. The home pages of the individual journals remain the same, although the main MCB home page has been revised providing direct links to Emerald, Anbar, and 100+. Whilst these are mainly of use to academics, many articles can be of use to practitioners as well. For non-subscribers access to indexes of previous articles in individual journals is available, with abstracts accessible too. There is also the ability to join e-mail groups via the "e-mail services" to gain updates on certain property related issues. For those undertaking research, the research register launched in May 1999 enables researchers to provide details of the work they are undertaking, or have recently completed.
On a final note I can still recommend the Rough Guide to the Internet, now in a revised edition. With over 500 pages of information including details on individual Web sites under numerous categories you can hardly go wrong!
Nigel AlmondMarket AnalystWeatherall Green & Smith, LondonE-mail: email@example.com
The views expressed are the author's and not those of WG&S.