Google contracted as web search engine

The University of Western Ontario has contracted with the world’s most dominant web search company to index and provide search engine services for the hundreds of thousands of pages making up the university’s web world.

With a two-year contract, Google replaces Ultraseek on the main homepage and will gradually be adapted to the search function on other key pages.

In some ways, says Terry Rice, Associate Director (Creative Services) with Communications and Public Affairs, the university is matching a decision already made by most users of its pages. Google is the search engine of choice for 80 per cent of Canadians and 69 per cent of the worldwide web.

The point was driven home for Rice earlier this year. Graduate student focus groups were asked to assess the web presence of Western and several other universities. Not one grad student used a search engine other than Google.

“We want to make finding information as simple as possible,” says Rice.

The project was spearheaded in partnership with Information Technology Services (ITS) and Communications.

As the size of corporate and institutional sites have grown, search engines have become an essential navigation tool for those sites.

For example, on Dec. 17, more than 7,300 web searches were conducted at Western.

From Dec 10 to Dec. 17, the top 10 queries were: webct (1,246), student centre (553), exam schedule (524), email (446), student services (425), web ct (314), bookstore (313), registrar (298), student centre (258), and mail (193).

On average since adopting Google, web searching peaks at almost 2,400 requests per hour around 3 p.m. and 10 a.m., but at 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. more than 1,200 searches are also being handled. Even at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. more than four searches a minute are taking place.

One of Google’s strengths is the “relevance” of results, says Rice. In other words, many users believe the results are closer to what they went looking for than with some other engines.

The current contract provides Western a Google index of up to 500,000 web pages. While Western’s web world is larger than that, the Google spotlight will be directed toward the most essential pages.