Authors:Mike Thelwall, Ray Binns, Gareth Harries, Teresa Page-Kennedy, Liz Price, and David Wilkinson
The web site is an important communication medium for universities in many countries. There are numerous reasons to expect that their characteristics will vary along national lines, the most immediate being differences in technological level and the organisation of higher education. In a world where the web is seen in many places as an important source of information it has the potential to overcome national boundaries, but are there still technological barriers? This paper reports on the results of a survey of the sizes of 670 web sites of higher education institutions in countries associated with the European Union, as estimated by AltaVista. It finds that there are still enormous national differences of up to three orders of magnitude. A related issue addressed is the extent to which AltaVista"s coverage of university web sites is reliable and consistent across Europe. Large but uneven differences were identified between the main engine and national variations. Despite such methodological problems and cultural reasons for national variations in web site development, a clear pattern emerges, with the richer countries in Europe having much larger web sites. This is a problem for those wishing to use the Internet to increase international collaboration.