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Science Chatroom with Simon Singh on the subject of Search Engines
Thursday 24 October 2002, 5.00-6.00pm

Simon Singh The Material World on 24 October 2002 was followed by a science chatroom on the subject of Search Engines. Simon Singh was joined by Professor Mike Jackson from the Search Engine Evaluation and Development Group at Wolverhampton University and Professor Stephen Robertson from Microsoft Research Laboratory, Cambridge, to discuss how they were invented, how they work, and what the future holds for the programs that effectively control our access to the web. Read the full transcript below.

You can also listen again to the programme.

BBCiSci Welcome to today's Science Chatroom with guests from Radio 4's The Material World.

BBCiSci Presenter Simon Singh is an author and broadcaster who's perhaps best known for his work on programmes like 'Fermat's Last Theorem'. He's also written extensively about codes and code-breaking, including the work of mathematicians at Bletchley Park who cracked the Enigma code during World War Two.

BBCiSci Simon will be with us shortly - he's got to get here from the studio.

BBCiSci Until Simon gets here, you have me - and each other - to talk to :)

PeterRoche That was an interesting discussion on search engines

BBCiSci What's your search engine of choice? And why?

thanatos Google - the Google bar is too easy to use

PeterRoche However I was intrigued by the example of Google and metatags

phase I'm not too keen on browser add-ons

MR So what exactly has science got to do with net search engines?

torlguy Why do Google and others include pages with unacceptable content?

phase They provide an uncensored search facility

PeterRoche I believe they are tightening up on content

thanatos Unacceptable is a matter for culture

MR Torlguy: I guess unacceptable content is not unacceptable by everyone...

torlguy I understand that, but surely there has to be some moral and legal consideration?

BBCiSci How satisfied are you that your search engines are indeed uncensored?

PeterRoche They are making choices after pressure has been brought against them?

phase Google has a 'moderate safe-search' tool

angus I don't understand why China 'banned' Google - for a while or how?

kara I read today that Google has been censoring nazi and white supremists websites

torlguy The content is one of the things that makes people anti-technology

uranusalien China banned Google, and I belive Google is accused of running a monopoly.

PeterRoche They banned it from known ISP's and proxy servers

BBCiSci There are legal issues of course to what search engines can link to

BJ I am developing a web site for a local charity - how do I get it noticed?

Agilent_Mat BJ: you need to goto a special website that registers you with all the search engines

phase China banned Google but not Yahoo which uses the Google technology

think Google is currently being sued by SearchKing for downgrading their ratings

BBCiSci The BBC search also uses Google technology, by the way :)

phase The best as always

PeterRoche There was a ban on AltaVista for a while also but that has been lifted now also

wellbread But which country should decide what should or should not be listed on a search engine that can be accessed worldwide?

wellbread For example, if our only portals available were those based in Islamic countries!

angus I heard that China aims to be the leading nation in science by 2010 - is that true, does it relate?

PeterRoche You ran into some accusations of bias with the Google use on the BBC did you not?

BBCiSci Simon's just arrived - I'll get him sat down and typing as soon as I can

think No special website can register you with the search engines - that is fraudulent - search engines won't accept registrations except from people filling in the forms on their sites

PeterRoche what is your opinion on the bias? Mr BBCiSci

Agilent_Mat That's wrong. I will find out the site name. When I registered with Lycos and wrote my webpage, it registered me with a handful of engines

wellbread It seems to me that Yahoo and Google are the same (interface, the addreess of a Yahoo search included Google in the title), but also the BBC one

wellbread Are they all based on one common knowledgebase?

SimonSingh Hello Simon here - we only have one keyboard so I will also be typing for Mike and Steve.

aberbotimue Google are the engine that power many others

phase The same underlying engine is the same

PeterRoche Hello there Simon

Mithras Where in the world are these 'farmer' mainframes that Yahoo/Google use PHYSICALLY located?

torlguy What about C4 total search?

aberbotimue As part of their branding, Google state that some engines have to have them left in the url..

fortynine The main problem with search engines is not so much bias but incompleteness, although the process can be managed so as to favour certain sites. No search engine comes anywhere near completeness in coverage of Web pages and, given the growth of pages, are not likely to.

MR Torlguy: Don't even bother with C4 mate.

PeterRoche C4 is a meta search engine like Mamma

BBCiSci Mike Jackson is also here - he's a researcher from the Open University

wellbread Who actually finds the BBC Search useful? It may be advert free, but its layout is like something from 1997!!

torlguy Why's that?

Jo It would be good to know more ways to access many search engines at once - could Mr Singh comment please?

torlguy Please explain

BBCiSci Stephen Robertson is a text retrieval researcher for Microsoft, based in Cambridge here in the UK

SimonSingh Mike says use a meta search engine like for accessing many search engines

Agilent_Mat When you said computer farms, did you mean Computer clusters? parrallel processing?

PeterRoche C4, Mamma, or

MR Torlguy: C4's website has been undergoing redevelopment for months now, and still nothing has updated. I think the company has gone bust or something.

Mithras Yeah

phase I think he meant clusters

torlguy Ok thanks

SimonSingh Are there any questions for Mike or Steve?

phase Here: I have heard that Tim Beners-Lee is in the process of creating a new indexing technology. How does this differ from meta tags?

thanatos Will some sort of XML classification system fly?

torlguy I still think search engines have an obligation to exclude certain porn and related sites

torlguy No?

PeterRoche I would be interested your idea of the future of search other than voice. Are we talking about computer profile Microsoft Passport for example? Or paid or search where one fills in a profile first?

SimonSingh Mike says you may be referring resource description framework...

tbeard Where will "the semantic web" fit into the picture?

aberbotimue Why would the remembering your sort of searches slow the search down so badly?

Agilent_Mat Question for Mike or Steve. Can the search engines, find out newly registered sites, and add them automatically?

phase The semantic web yes

Mithras What kind of next generation research are you doing i.e. 'post-***' stuff?

SimonSingh... which allows you to have more info about pages put in the page builder or automatically.

MR Agilent Mat: Yes they can....

think Resource description format or RDF is for software-software comms, could be used to do searching, but would need another layer of XML on top

wellbread Mike - do you think that the general public need to become more aware of how to use a search engine? My Mum always does something like writing out a properly formed question for something like Google (Ask is a bit confusing for her!)

SimonSingh Steve at Microsoft says that they are .... working on 'relevance feedback' which allows the user to give examples of the kind of thing they would like to see

think Technology doesn't solve the problem of people lying to their technology about their contents

Stevechik On your programme why did you not mention boolean search techniques?

Mithras How are the search engines funded? It can't all be off banner ads!

SimonSingh Steve developed probabilistic relevance scoring, which is a foundation for some sarch engines.

MR There are so many search engines and they all work differently - it would be impossible to teach people how to use them

jrsm Telling them not to enter full urls into the search box would be a start ;)

SteveTurner I have a new business website, but when saerching for it through Google I cannot find it. what do I have to do to make it come up on a search?

think Search engines are having problems with cash - advertising isn't working - that's why there's less every year

MR Mithras: good question, most search engines don't cost much to run. just a server and some webspace....Most don't require many humans to work them.

SimonSingh Mike says, research shows that not many people use boolean terms when seraching, they tend to use 2 or 3 unrelated words

aberbotimue Mithras, they make money from having a bias put on some links, or marked as sponsors...

MR Apart from banner ads they also include sponsord links, and many engines are owned by bigger companies who can afford to let them run.

think SteveTurner - register with Google yourself

SimonSingh Mike: says that a good research topic would be to find an easy way to allow people to phrase boolean queries easily.

fortynine Question for both: the 'persistence' problem with Web sites seems to be a major problem - pages disappear on average, I believe, in less than two years. Sometimes the Google cache is the only place to find a page. Apart from such caching, or national archiving, are there search strategies that might be implemented to re-locate pages that have simply moved, rather than died?

Stevechik Also all the most important search engines do read the meta tags in each page. I should know I make a living out of it!

MR Also, many search engines 'sell' their technologies to other companies. such as BBC, which uses the Google technology.

don A search engine presented with three or four words to be included on a page will come up with 1000's of pages in a few seconds. Can you give us an idea of the structure of the indices that allow it to do this?

phase Wait until the bots have searched the web again

Stevechik Know!

torlguy Ok

jrsm You need to submit it to each one individually Steve

think Steve - you have to register with each in turn, and most (except Google) want to be paid for it

itsakoo Google doesn't read meta tags...

torlguy not og**** ?

Mithras How much does this technology cost in hard $?

thanatos No sorry

MR You cannot add your website to Google. there is no sign up form.

torlguy can someone please explain meta tags?

jrsm how long is a piece of string?

MR Mithras: Usually very little.

SimonSingh Somebody asked about the persistence problem - i.e. how do you solve the problem of pages disappearing?

Stevechik AlltheWeb/Fast is probably a better search engine

jrsm They are 'hidden' in the html and dictate the contents of the page

MR Simong: Simply, you cant.

aberbotimue You can go download an open source version of a search engine...

think SteveTurner - just looked at your site - you need to dump the frames, search engines hate them

Stevechik You can add your site to Google easily

aberbotimue So you can set one up for free..

jrsm Sorry not dictate. Indicate. Metatags, that is

PeterRoche it was a funny example with Google and meta's and fast doesn't add much credence to them metas that is

Kim you can add your site to Google!

MR Steve: and how's that.

aberbotimue But the servers behind it, and the maintenance would be too much as a hobby

SimonSingh Mike says there was a paper at the WWW conference in Toronto a couple of years ago, but there must be more recent stuff out there too. In fact Mike has one on his desk at work, but that is not much use.

Goldie What about Muscat and contextual searching?

ericaceous How do the panel feel about the privacy issue? Is this an unsurmountable barrier to providing the context based information that the engines need to give more relevant results...

BBCiSci Torlguy - here's metatags explained...

SimonSingh A Meta Tag is info provided on the page that does not appear on the page, but helps the search engine.

think SteveTurner - your site is pure Flash - search engines can't read Flash - you need to replace it with text

davidgb Are there any search engines which allow combining two searches or the use of Boolean logic phrases?

think ST - I'm afraid with frames and Flash your site is search engine invisible

MR Yes, *** for example.

SimonSingh So on my home page ( you will find meta tags like mathematics engima codes Fermat and so on.

Stevechik The key thing is to come in the top thirty results as statistics show 98% of surfers confine themselves to this.

phase You could make two sites: text (HTML) & Flash

torlguy So the meta tag info is what the search engine actually indexes?

BBCiSci The next Science chatroom in conjunction with The Material World will be on November 7th.

PeterRoche Do the search engines use AI with contextual click through learning from Caches and searches or is that next Wolverhampton AC?

Stevechik You can get round the problem of Flash and frame based sites quite easily.

kara Torlguy - the search engines look at text on your page, they don't give much weight to meta-tags anymore: too easy to spam

SimonSingh Steve at Microsoft says that the bad pages for search engines are pages generated by databases, because they are tailor-made each time.

Stevechik Search engines don't just index meta tags some even don't

spottyspaniel If I am putting a site on the web, how do i ensure that the maximum number of people find it, The page is of a virtual secretary.

torlguy So they were like keywords, open to abuse, porn etc?

Barry How do web crawlers find new web pages?

SimonSingh Since Flash pages are generally visual, and not textual, then Mike thinks that it will be a long time before anyboady cracks the problem of finding Flash pages

SimonSingh The only way to find Flash pages is if the builder gives appropriate metatags

torlguy How much bandwidth does Google need?

think Spotty - Inktomi + Google will give max coverage for minimum price

kara Torlguy: anything that's not visible to people is not weighted as much by the search engines, as easy to spam

torlguy How much server space to index 2.5 Billion pages?

Stevechik Spotty you need to make sure that it is optimised to achieve a high ranking for the keywords and phrases you want it to rank highly for

think Spotty - to get FULL coverage costs about £1,500 in registration fees

aberbotimue That's an interesting question, does anyone know how much bandwidth Google uses?

SimonSingh Google needs very little bandwith for user communication, but it probably has a lot of bandwitch for communciation with its own machines.

think I heard Google is 10,000 computers in 3 locations

Stevechik It is not such a big problem to find Flash pages - it only requires a little ingenuity Simon!

PeterRoche Dear Mr Singh where do the experts think search is going to go next?

phase They probably have base1000 for inter-process communications

SimonSingh Server space for 2.5 billion pages would be 1.5 times the spaces the combined orginal data, using very good compression.

ericaceous Flash MX has been specifically extend to make Flash pages more visible to search engines. Google ARE begining to index Flash content, by extracting the text parts from the binary files...

greg I am currently writing an extended essay on search engines and have been focusing on how they have benefitted the user and busineses

Mithras In the radio show you mention 'Internet CVs' that your browser would carry may be hard to compress relevent info: why not make them like character sheets/setups in RPGs? That's one way of expressing personal data that's less like a bureacratic nightmare.

SimonSingh Coupling searach engines with strong AI would be the future.

jrsm Yes

greg Does anyone have any experience of how they have benfitted their business?

SimonSingh Developing search engines is hard

Stevechik It's easy to come top in the search engines for any site if you know how!

SimonSingh Developing AI is hard

jrsm Lol

SimonSingh Coupling the two will be hard squared

MR A great manual indexed search engine would be good.

think Greg - we have run a teaching site purely off search engine referrals for 6 years - no other form of sales

MR Hard work but it would stop rubbish sites entering.

torlguy How do sponsored sites on Google always appear on top?

phase Eventually search engines wouldn't exist surely. If AI progressed enough

jrsm They pay torlguy

thanatos is pretty good MR

MR Torlguy: Just the way that they are added.

greg That's brilliant - could you tell me the URL?

Kim They are paid for

torlguy I know, but how does it work?

MR What is AI?

SimonSingh Some sites do pay to be on Google - so be wary of the top hits

PeterRoche Sorry, Simon. What was the last one? Will the search engines learn iteratively from contextual searches and clickthrough?

jrsm MR: AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, innit

torlguy Please!

kara torlguy: you sign up from the Google site

aberbotimue They bid for the top position on Google...

SimonSingh You can find out at Google, because Google is honest enough to mark such paid for listings

jrsm They simply skip the index - they are hard coded with certain words

PeterRoche Yes please Steve

SimonSingh But you don't need to pay to be on Google

jrsm And if those words are used they are pulled in as sponsored links. ok?

MR How exactly do u get listed on Google.

Stevechik Dead easy

think MR - just fill in their form

SimonSingh Mike's favorite search engine other than Google is Yahoo because he likes the directory structure

torlguy So, if i set up a site, how do i get on Google?

jrsm You can use adwords

kara MR: get someone else who is in Google to link to your site

jrsm Their new paid for service

greg Thanks

SimonSingh Steve's fave is Google and is reluctant to promote any other engine.

MR Oh yes, it's Yahoo that is hard to get listed on isnt it.

kara MR: Yahoo you pay for

greg Yahoo's good because it is a hybrid search engine

MR You can get listed on Yahoo for free, but that's only if they pick you.

phase What about

spottyspaniel Do you have to pay to register sites with search engines?

SimonSingh If you want to get on Google, then you can tell them. there is option somethere on their homepage, but it might take them a while to index you.

torlguy Thanks

greg But they have just reneweed a contract with Google

aberbotimue So Simon, since the time taken to process the sponsors and put them to the top, surely having the engine read a cookie, and bias your results to the enigma CODE, rather than the band would not take up too much speed?

kara Spotty: most indexes these days make you pay

jrsm ;)

PeterRoche Simon Singh days Inktomi's numbered with Micorsoft?

torlguy Whats the cost?

SimonSingh I am just going to ask Mike and Steve their advice for people who want to promote their small homepages, cheaply and effectively.

BBCiSci The next Science chatroom in conjunction with The Material World will be on November 7th. Celebrate the clocks going back with a discussion of body clocks and circadian rhythms - are you an early riser or a bedhead?

jrsm What for adwords?

torlguy Or Google?

jrsm Well check it out

kara torlguy: Yahoo £199 for a year

chrisjboys Any comments on Autonomy which claims to be more than a search engine?

jrsm Go there and click the adwords link

torlguy Thanks

jrsm That's ok

greg Is Autonomy the future of search engines?

jrsm Choose your keywords first

SimonSingh Mike says that search engines are not the only answer to getting people to your site. Get people to link to you, offer reciprocal links, and get the word out. Then the crawlers will rate you and you will get high up on the search engines too.

aberbotimue Autonomy is still suffering with huge databases

jrsm You can set a budget for what your daily spend will be

Stevechik AlltheWeb more likely the future

phase Webrings have a similar effect

greg If not what is the future of search engines?

greg Will Google always be free?

jrsm That is correct Simon. The best way is to link your site from the natural hubs

PeterRoche Well Autonomy has it's own classification system so it isn't perfect and it's distribution is not high

torlguy Natural hubs?

think Greg - there have been rumours all year about Google switching to a charging model

jrsm Natural hubs. yes

Stevechik Alltheweb already has the world largest database of pages and indexes faster the Google. I should know I submit sites everyday

torlguy Please explain

greg I cannot understand, other than sponsored links and clickthrus, how search engines can make money?

kara Link popularity is hugely important to your search engine ranking

SimonSingh What is autonomy - it is a very early intelligent agent which a lot of people say will be important for the semantic web, which is where we have pages constructed out of XML.

jrsm Places where people gravitate naturally

greg I know they sell their indexes like altavista did to reuters

jrsm According to mutual interests

think Greg - they're not profitable

greg But are there any other ways that search engines can make money?

Stevechik Dead easy to make money from coming top in the search engines

PeterRoche Exactly my point Simon about Autonomy

think Greg - there were over 22 majors 2 years ago, now there's 4-5

greg Yeah

kara Selling enterprise solutions to companies makes search engines money

SimonSingh I am asking M and S about whether good search engines will start to charge us.

greg But not for the search engines to make

Stevechik Coming top makes money

Mark What has happened to dejanews, does Google maintain all articles ever written?

kara Mark: that's what they say

phase Maybe subscriptions to engines for searching will be introduced

SimonSingh M says that may start to charge for special services, so they will always have a free service to encourage people to come on board but they they will make even more money by selling services like super dooper search facilities.

Kim There are rumours that Google are starting up a new service where you have to pay to search/use it. I've only heard little on it....

aberbotimue If the engines start charging, then they will stop getting ALL pages on them, and suddenly they are only useful to find commercial sites

kara Google has mentioned a subscription model

greg That's an idea

BBCiSci Is there a market for a truly independent, non-commercial search engine?

phase Yes

ian Yes

think aber - almost all search engines DO charge

aberbotimue No

kara That's how Google go popular

Kim No

jrsm Well what do you mean a market for?

chrisjboys Semantic web? What exactly does that mean?

aberbotimue But they also let you put things in for free.

jrsm Clever

torlguy What about the bbc having an fp engine?

torlguy Not for profit

Kim Can you get me listed on 1000 search engines Steve

think Semantic web is a system whereby links etc are based on more complex factors than simply page 2 page

Kim Top 10...on all

Stevechik no need to be listed on 1000's the top twenty get 90% of the traffic

SimonSingh Semantic web is the next generation of the web - as viewed by the www consortium - it will be better because it will have more meaning to the metatages on your pages and you can even design your own tags.

abar I recommend using Copernic for searches as it searches a number of engines simultaneous and then refines the list

jrsm Simon what is your url did you say?

think Check out W3C's site for more details on semantic web - it's their initiative

aberbotimue 1000 search engines isn't the key, the top 10 search engines are used by 95 % of internet users, or similar figures...


jrsm Cheers

PeterRoche Do the panel believe Inktomi is up against the wall, esp if MSN drop it?

torlguy BBCi - what about a BBC engine?

SimonSingh I am just asking the guys about the biggest misconception about SEs.

Kim Does anyone think inktomi is near death yet...

BBCiSci BBCi's search is a UK-focussed, family friendly version of Google

torlguy any plans to expand?

Stevechik I don't think it is near death - Inktomi that is

jrsm Nice front page..

SimonSingh Mike thinks that most people think that SEs are all-knowning, in fact know about 15% of the sites currently in existence, but not the same 15% all the time.

torlguy Spread the BBC word. haha

PeterRoche Does it have a bias towards BBC content, BBCiSci?

BBCiSci It is editorially independent (no one can buy a higher listing) but arguably it's very much 'establishment'.

itsakoo If Inktomi lose MSN they're dead

greg Also search engines are always out of date

greg Because of the time that it takes for the cralwer to update the index

torlguy Maybe you should look again at the coverage

SimonSingh Steve thinks Inktomi is fairly healthy, beause some companies use it as a backend (MSN offer search engines that fall through to Inktomi's engine).

kara Not many big engines use inktomi anymore, Google is taking over

PeterRoche Aren't they struggling on the Enterprise front also though Inktomi that is

Mithras Where can you get the inside track on Google as a company online?

torlguy Who runs Google?

aberbotimue Do a search on Google for Google..

Stevechik I agree with Steve re-Inktomi I get good reults with MSN by using Inktomi paid submissions service and would recommend it to everyone

think Out of curiosity - how many people here are search engine specialists?

Kim Lol

aberbotimue Even funnier, do a search on Yahoo, for Google

Stevechik I am

Kim lmao

PeterRoche Lol

greg Larry Page

torlguy Not me, surprise. haha

kara Lol

greg and Sergey Berin

phase Me neither

SimonSingh Sci FI - James Blish novel contains a librarian - according to Steve this seems to be one of the first uses of search engines wthin a novel.

angus Not me

Kim You're not are you steve

aberbotimue Guilty as charged

BBCiSci General info...

BBCiSci The next Science chatroom in conjunction with The Material World will be on November 7th. Celebrate the clocks going back with a discussion of body clocks and circadian rhythms - are you an early riser or a bedhead?

jrsm Lol

thanatos The most telling seach on Google is the word 'the'

torlguy Why?

jrsm Cos people keep typing it?

jrsm That's not too telling is it thanatos?

think Try search for "IT services" in Google - it drops the "IT"

greg Because 'the' is a stop word

thanatos 'The' is a very common word so it gives the top rankings BBCi is about 13

greg In theory it should produce no results

SimonSingh Mike says try 'the' as a phrase query

Leo_CTU Type "IT services" in quotes and it shouldn't exclude the IT

thanatos Ol

SimonSingh Classic information retireval was also based on the premise of removing stop words like The Of And

greg If IT is in caps

greg Would be ok

Leo_CTU Google isn't case sensitive

PeterRoche Simon do the team think that voice search is not ready yes because there is only discrete and not continuous language recognition yet?

SimonSingh Google is case sensitive according to Mike

aberbotimue Google is case sensative

think There IS continuous language recognition - its a standard in Office now

aberbotimue If you use case, it will be specific for that case

SimonSingh yes, language recognition is a huge stumbling block, and would only add to confusion - Bali Barley?

Kim In search engines... Think. Not in office

think Problem is accents, not discrete words

jrsm Ok ok

Kim no.....VOIP

SimonSingh On the other hand that there are engines that can search from spoken documents like BBC boradcasts, because the document broadcast is longer and redundant so there is more error toleration.

jrsm Is that true simon? can you explain further?

PeterRoche I heard Cambridge with Microsoft were working on language recognition and accents

jrsm Oh because they speak more clearly etc

torlguy Yep

SimonSingh You can run speech recognition on BBC broadcast programmes and then index that and search on it - and because BBC English is so standard it works reasonably well.

PeterRoche As a matter of interest are the people here who are not SEO specialists confused by the ones who seem to be

jrsm I getcha

thanatos Filtering content by accents sounds a very British thing?

phase Even local programmes have clear english

jrsm Received Pronunciation don't y'know

Jolliness Mr Singh would you tell us more about your current interests as well as voice recognition?

SimonSingh Microsoft in Cambridge are doing lots of stuff, but Steve thinks that this research is not happenign in Cambridge.

jrsm Who is leading in VR simon?

jrsm In your opinion?

greg Everyone seems to be talking about voice recognition - so is this future?

phase IBM?

aberbotimue There is a lot of speech recognition in search happening at stirling Uni...

SimonSingh I am currently interested in teaching and whether Estelle Morris's departure will make things worse... but I don't think that this is too relevant for today's topic.

jrsm Pretty much greg..

sam Hi room where would you recommend for the easiest to understand SEO guidlines

BBCiSci The next Science chatroom in conjunction with The Material World will be on November 7th. Celebrate the clocks going back with a discussion of body clocks and circadian rhythms - are you an early riser or a bedhead?


jrsm There was some interesting stuff on that earlier sam

Kim Totally independent advice

SimonSingh SEO guidelines - how about - also recommended by Mike.

BBCiSci Five minutes to go with Simon, Mike and Stephen...

chrisjboys If I want people to find my stuff, the best I can do is use appropriate meta tags/keywords? Is there a difference?

greg I thought that Autonomy was the future?

PeterRoche I don't think Speech is the future it is the contextual accuracy which will be, you want accurate results with an in car guidance search engine for example

greg I agree

jrsm Nobody knows the future. we are all making it as we go along.

greg I dont see the importance of VR yet

SimonSingh Answer to Chris - keywords are a kind of metatags, but some search engines (incl Google) do not use them.

phase What ever happened to directory pages?

thanatos I do see VR on mobiles one day

chrisjboys Thanks Simon

SimonSingh I asked the guys about Ask Jeeves?

aberbotimue Yahoo, is a directory...

aberbotimue Dmoz

Mithras What do Google use instead of metatags?

BBCiSci I heard that many engines look for tags like 'strong' and 'em' which is why they are preferable to 'b' and 'i'. Is this true?

sam Thanks

greg Google ranks a site based on the importance of the sites that link to it

phase Just text

aberbotimue They index all the words on the page.

Leo_CTU Google pays quite a lot of attention to the title tag

aberbotimue Rather than the metatags

PeterRoche There will be a greater acceptance of Dublin Core code but it will take time and probably more so in vertical portals

SimonSingh They said that Ask Jeeves is very very primitive - there is much better stuff in research which we will be able to use in 3 to 5 years.

Kim There arent any magic tags that'll do wonders for your site?

Leo_CTU Google also uses how many times a site is linked to from other pages

Mithras How do Google judge the 'importance' of a site?

jrsm Yes that is true, leo

ian What about streaming live video on the net from BBC News 24?

sam Is the title tag different to the page title

Kim You just got to make sure that all the content on your site is relevant and focused

SimonSingh Dublin Core - Mike says that there are lots of enthustiasts but in a very narrow field - they are mainly librarians.

jrsm The more sites that link to you the more Google loves you

greg By the importance of the sites that link to it

Leo_CTU Not the same thing, Sam

ian What about streaming live video on the net from BBC News 24?

sam Thanks

greg If the BBC homepage linked to my site and the MSN homepage linked to it aswell Google would value it

SimonSingh I asked the guys about China banning Google?

Mithras 'important' like in the Gibson cyberspace sense?

phase Do you think search engines will be able to recognise text and sound from media files on the web eventually?

ian Freedom of speech issue with the China debate!

SimonSingh They said China can practically block it because they have control over all the incoming and outgoing links.

Kim They counteracted it with

jrsm That's not terribly easy to control i'd imagine...

BBCiSci Couple of minutes more today. Simon and people have to go. Back in two weeks from 5-6pm

greg That's becasue of the "evil dictator Jiang Zemin"

Leo_CTU Greg yes, but especially if the pages that link to yours are about a similar subject, i think

PeterRoche There is interest in Corporate intranet cataloguing Simon, but yes, I agree that walled gardens and vertical walled gardens will benefit most at the outset

SimonSingh Unfortunately we have to go now.

Kim Ok bye

ian Ok

jrsm Bye bye

thanatos Phase CCS2 has speech capability

greg Thanks everyone

jrsm And cheers

Jolliness Thank you

greg Bye

think Bye

Kim Clap

ian Bye

torlguy Very informative, thanks

SimonSingh Thanks for logging in and joining us.

chrisjboys Bye

Leo_CTU Cheerio

SimonSingh Tune in to Quentin next week and find about the geese

sam Good show

Mark Bye

thanatos Bye & thanks

PeterRoche Thank you, bye

jrsm Nice one simon

sam Thanks

BBCiSci The next Science chatroom in conjunction with The Material World will be on November 7th. Celebrate the clocks going back with a discussion of body clocks and circadian rhythms - are you an early riser or a bedhead?

BBCiSci That's about it for today. Thanks for logging in and thanks to to our three guests, Simon Singh, Mike Jackson and Stephen Robertson.

BBCiSci More in a fortnight. From 4.30pm on Radio 4 (you can listen online or on good old FM/LW) and then from 5pm here in the Science Chatroom. See you next time?


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