An ESC! Magazine Editorial

November 11, 1998

Are we wasting bandwidth from an overcrowded web?
- or -
Internet Decimal System, Is it time?

by Michael R. Potter

I was browsing the web at work the other day, attempting to find  information which, at the time, was critical to the project I was working on.  What I found instead was an endless list of links to pages which had absolutely no relevance to the search terms I had entered.  Foolish man that I am I exclaimed: "I'm wasting my bandwidth looking at all this crap.  I wish the web would go back to the way it was, simply a place for reference." (I'm paraphrasing at the moment)

Little did I know that this would strike up a rather heated debate with an office colleague as to the worthiness of his site.  He was offended that I should suggest that his site was a waste of time.  Indeed, my suggestion was that both his and mine were a waste of time if they erroneously came up in a search about a completely different topic.  In fact, the majority of the web is a waste of time if it comes up in place of what I'm looking for.  There have been studies done which show how much time is wasted on the web everyday by employees who get diverted by the randomness of the web.

So what do I propose?  In the old days, we used card catalogs to locate books in the library.  The library would be organized into multiple sections, each dealing with general topics and then narrowed down to the specific when you actually got to the individual books on the shelves.  This organizational scheme was called the Dewey Decimal System and do you know what?  It worked!  In fact, it worked so well, that when libraries began using computers in place of those wonderful old card catalogs, they followed the same organizational method.  So why not do the same with web sites?

The INTERNET DECIMAL SYSTEM.  Why not implement the same type of coding scheme on web sites that we use on books?  Certainly everyone would agree that most, if not all, web sites could be classified with the existing system.  If we need to come up with new categories then so be it, it's certainly been done before.  I know that some would argue that certain search sites like Yahoo! already are categorized and they would be right.  But the major difference here is that all search engines could implement this system to ensure more accurate searches by the browser.  In fact, most search engines could continue to implement their old methods of crawling sites and delivering pages as well so they can maintain their individuality and uniqueness.

How Do We Implement This?
Easy!  Just put the correct IDS code into the META tag section of your entry page in the form of IDS9845.6 (made up example).  When your site gets crawled, this number will be added to that particular search engines database.  All I ask is that the search engines provide a simple means for the end user to look up those pages without having to know the coding scheme by heart (just like the card catalogs).  Perhaps there could be a central IDS database which the various engines could tap into to help speed the process along.

What Are The Downfalls?
Of course getting people to use these codes, and use them correctly, would be the hardest.   It would almost require an independent governing board to decide what the coding scheme should be and how to assign it to the millions of pages out there.  To ensure its success, at least one major search engine would have to require that all new sites added to its database be required to have the code.  Eventually all search engines would pick it up through the re-crawling of pages.  Also, it would be imperative that sites who abuse the coding scheme be temporarily suspended from the existing search databases for a period of time.  What constitutes abuse?  Assigning codes to sites which have no relevance to the data contained on that site to fool web searchers into visiting the site.  Lastly, in the DDS, each book has its own unique number.   Obviously, the categorization of sites could not be as specific as the DDS because there really just aren't enough numbers! 

The Conclusion
Are there many more things to consider regarding this proposed way of categorizing web sites?  Of course there are!  In fact, I look for your input.  In the most constructive manner possible, let me know if you think I'm cracked or on to something good here.  I know for a fact that I haven't thought of everything and maybe the idea would never float, but we don't know unless we at least give it an honest thought.   As I come up with more ideas, I'll post them here on ESC!

Thanks for listening!

Michael R. Potter
ESC! Magazine