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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Are search engines time-agnostic?

    I came across the following post over the weekend, which suggests that you are more likely to find older than newer information when you use Google or Yahoo! This - in an era where so much work is done in an immediate time frame: on blogs, via RSS feeds, e-mail - could be a serious consideration for searchers. The reports says:

    But Google and the other search engines are time-agnostic. And the result of that is a dramatic shift in demand towards older material.

    What matters to modern search engines is relevance, measure mostly by the number of other sites that link to a page. A little-noticed implication of this is that older content tends to score higher because it's had longer to accumulate incoming links. In other words, search inverts the usual priority of content: older is often better.

    We don't think of Google as a time machine, but that's actually what it is. By subsuming time under more important criteria such as "authority", it frees us from the tyranny of the new. Quality lasts and freshness is just one factor in many that determine value.

    I am not sure that I agree with this - certainly, I have never particularly noticed a trend towards locating older material and against finding new/newer sources, but I wonder if other, more skilled searchers have? When I post this message I shall alert a few colleagues with more in-depth search engine skills, and perhaps we shall get a debate going via the comments!

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