Finding Top Ten Web Sites Using Search Engines: The Case of The Desalination
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Finding Top Ten Web Sites Using Search Engines: The Case of The Desalination

The desalination industry involves the desalting of sea or brackish water and achieves the purpose of increasing the world's effective water supply. There are approximately 4,000 desalination Web sites. The six major Internet search engines were used to determine, according to each of the six, the top twenty Web sites for desalination. Each site was visited and the 120 gross returns were pared down to the final ten - the "Top Ten".

The Top Ten were then analyzed to determine what it was that made the sites useful and informative. The major attributes were:

a) currency (up-to-date); b) search site capability; c) access to articles on desalination; d) newsletters; e) databases; f) product information; g) online conferencing; h) valuable links to other sites; I) communication links; j) site maps; and k) case studies.

Reasons for having a Web site and the current status and prospects for Internet commerce are discussed.

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Contents

Introduction
Criteria
Discussion
Conclusion
Table I
Table II
Notes

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Introduction

Desalination is the desalting of sea water or of brackish water in order to make the water drinkable or usable in agriculture and industry. It is a worldwide industry with more than 1500 desalination plants [1] and sales in excess of $10 billion [2]. Geographically, it is concentrated in the Middle East and parts of the United States. California has about ten seawater desalination plants and Florida has had considerable salt-water intrusion in their water supply. These are also desalination plants elsewhere - Singapore, Thailand, the Caribbean, Peru, Mexico and England are examples.

Our research objective was to determine the overall presence of desalination sites on the Internet and to visit the most promising Web sites for the purpose of finding the "Top Ten" sites [3]. The Internet search engines are a convenient starting place for discovering desalination Web sites. We submitted the keyword desalination to the six primary search engines [4]. The number of sites found - also known as returns or hits - varied, as follows: Alta Vista, 4000; Excite 1457; HotBot 3265; InfoSeek 1771; Lycos 619; and WebCrawler 121. These search engines report the desalination sites in order of estimated relevance as determined by the unpublished ranking algorithm used. We then examined the top returns from each search engine. Some returns overlapped so that the number of desalination sites visited was about 80. The second phase of our project consisted of visiting each site and exploring the variety of content presented on the various Web pages. The criteria used to evaluate and rank emerged inductively as we had no prior experience to proceed deductively. The Top Ten sites were:

Aqua-Chem
URL: http://www.aqua-chem.com/
European Desalination Society
URL: http://www.mondoweb.it/eds/
International Desalination Association
URL: http://www.ida.bm/
Link Magazine
URL: http://www.link.co.il/
MEDRC: Middle East Desalination Research Center
URL: http://www.medrc.org.om/
Seawater Desalination in California
URL: http://www.ceres.ca.gov/coastal comm/desalrpt/dsynops.html
U. S. Bureau of Reclamation Desalination Site
URL: http://www.USbr.gov/water/consort/consort.html
U. S. Water News Home Page
URL: http://www.USwaternews.com/
Water Online Times
URL: http://www.wateronline.com/times
World Wide Water
URL: http://www.desalination.com/

These are the Web pages of excellence - The Top Ten Desalination Web Sites. The types of information or features that these pages have form a de facto set of criteria for being in the Top Ten.

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CRITERIA FOR BEING A TOP TEN DESALINATION WEB SITE

  • Currency
  • The date of construction of a Web page and date of last modification indicates currency and maintenance.

  • Search Site Capability

    Five of the Top Ten have indexed databases which are keyword searchable:

    • International Desalination Association
    • Link:The Middle East International Business Magazine
    • U. S. Bureau of Reclamation
    • Water Online Times
    • World Wide Water
    A sixth site, U. S. Water News Online, has browsable archives [5]

  • Articles on Desalination

    Some sites have access to articles on desalination. These articles can be individually listed in hypertext form (point the mouse an click, then the article appears) or can be accessed via an insite search engine. A keyword search,, for example, at the Link: The Middle East International Business Magazine site produced 36 articles on desalination.

    The International Desalination site at http://www.ida.bm provides a search engine for locating titles, abstracts (and, in some cases, full-text) of publications. Searching can be by title, author, country or publisher. A search using the keyword desalination produced 33 returns, most of which were 1997 publications.

    The California Coastal Commission's "Seawater Desalination in California" Web site at http://ceres.ca.gov/coastalcom/desalrpt/dtitle.html provides online access to the entire book.Their 1993 Table 1 describes the eleven existing and seven proposed coastal seawater desalination plants in California in terms of

    • Purpose
    • Technology - Reverse Osmosis or Distillation
    • Capacity
    • Energy Use
    • Feedwater Source
    • Size

  • Newsletters

    A newsletter provides information on forthcoming conferences, news, current developments, regulative and legislative issues, and new product developments. An example is the Middle East Desalination Research Center's MEDRC Newsletter located at http://www.medrc.org.om

  • Databases

    Several of the Top Ten have extensive databases of various kinds. For example, World Wide Water's Desalination Technical Papers are a bibliography of over 500 desalination articles and monographs from the 1960s into the 1990s.

  • Product Information

    A desalination Web page is an excellent place for providing product information. Aqua-Chem's site, for example, has many such links, some of which are:

    • Multi-Stage Flash
    • Vapor Compression Evaporation
    • Bottled Water Technology
    • Pharmaceutical Products
    • Multiple Effect Desalinaiton

  • Online Conference Capability

    An example of a site where messages can be posted is the International Desalination Assn (IDA) Web site [6], maintained by Bill Andrews. Some of the major categories are:

    • Employment Opportunities
    • Desalination Cost Information Requested
    • Guides Tour of the IDA Online Conference
    • Publications
    • Supplier Requests
    • What is Desalination
    • Events

  • Valuable Links to Other Sites

    A Web site frequently presents hypertext links to recommended related sites. The International Desalination Association has links to

    • IDA Affiliates
    • American Desalting Association
    • Indian Desalination Association
    • Pakistan Desalination Association
    • Water Sciences and Technology Association
    • American Water Works Association
    • Middle East Desalination Research Centre
    • Water Web
    • World Wide Water
    • Desalination Online
    • Universities Water Information Network
    • National Water Research Institute

  • Communication Links

    Many desalination Web sites have Communication links to people and organizations in the industry. The International Desalination Association site provides electronic access to 979 people and 146 organizations. The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation provides electronic mail links to dozens of government officials with desalination interest. The European Desalination Association links up with Miriam Balaban's Desalination Directory Online, now located at http://www.desline.com/pub.htm

  • Site Maps

    A site map is a compact graphic which presents an entire array of hot links available at a Web site. An excellent example is provided by the Water Online Times at http://wateronline.com/times/w oltimes.html. Some of the many choices available are:

    Supplier's Marketplace
    "The most complete virtual marketplace for supplies, equipment and service providers in the water and wastewater industries"
    Discussion Forums
    "Send and receive messages from other professionals on topics of interest"
    Engineering Marketplace
    Yellow Pages of engineering firms
    RFPs/RFQs
    "Advertise your projects out for bid and search for the most current projects out for bid"

  • Case Studies

    Aqua-Chem's Web Page, located at http://www.aqua-chem.com/, provides examples of successful desalination projects. A description of one of their Caribbean projects is excerpted below:

    Aruba is a Caribbean island located eighteen miles off the coast of Venezuela. The island is extremely arid, with no natural fresh water sources available.

    The island is dependent on seawater desalination to meet its entire potable water requirements. An island population of approximately 80,000 and a thriving tourist industry of over 100,000 visitors annually, demand a reliable source of potable water.

    The Problem

    Existing Aqua-Chem Multi-Stage Flash (MSF) units were producing nearly five million gallons of fresh water daily (5 mgd). The growing population and rapid 20-25% yearly increase in tourism required additional capacity. Technologies, other than MSF, had failed them in the past. They also needed the quickest delivery and installation possible for this turnkey project.

    The Solution

    In only fourteen months from date of sale, the fourth Aqua-Chem MSF plant was delivered, erected, brought on line, performance tested and producing an additional 1.6 mgd of fresh water. A fifth identical plant was installed in 1991, followed by a sixth plant in 1992, under the same accelerated program. The Aqua-Chem Aruba facility now produces nearly ten million gallons per day of fresh water.

    Other Aqua-Chem case studies can be found at

    • Ito, Peru
    • Sinaloa, Mexico
    • Oman
    • Sriracha, Thailand
    • Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU), U. S. Army in Desert Storm

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Discussion

Reasons for Having a Web Site

Business Web sites are advantageous if they:

  • are effective marketing, advertising, and public relations vehicles for connecting the firm with current and potential customers and suppliers
  • provide more complete descriptions of products than hard copy catalogs and provide immediate and 24-hour access
  • lower administrative costs and hence larger profit margins
  • reduce fax usage and long-distance phone calls
  • enable faster customer service and technical support
  • broadcast more effectively Requests for Information, Proposals, and Quotes (RFIs, RFPs, RFQs) [7].

At a more general level, the primary reasons for setting up corporate Web sites are cost savings (35%), customer service (32%), revenue generation (18%), marketing (13%) and miscellaneous (2%) [8].

Growth of Electronic Commerce

A major factor in the growth of electronic commerce will be the increase in the number of computers worldwide that are linked to the Internet, from 50 million in 1997 to 270 million (estimated) in 2001. Much of the increase will be due to greater business use of personal computers and to the growth of the Internet [9].

A clear indication that Internet commerce can be quickly successful is given by The Economist's description of the General Electric Web site which started in mid-1996:

And GE is doing Internet Commerce in a big way. The centre of its effort is its Trading Process Network (TPN), a Web site where GE now does $1 billion worth of business a year with about 1,400 of its suppliers, single-handedly exceeding all consumer electronic commerce [10].

The recent experience of the Fortune 500 firms dramatically illustrates the recognition that Web sites are becoming a necessity - 80% had Web sites at year-end 1996, up from 34% a year earlier [11].

Two prominent research firms which recently conducted comprehensive interviews of major industry participants have estimated that Web-based transactions will reach $220 to 327 billion within the next five years. Kambiz Foroohar, in his recent Forbes article, has commented as follows:

These numbers are so huge that they are difficult to grasp. At present, Internet commerce is estimated at $8 billion a year. Yet, electronic commerce may be the killer application that will fuel a massive expansion of the Internet, or so the conventional mantra goes. Either way, it looks like a major opportunity for an industry that has yet to reach adolescence [12].

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Conclusion

Internet search engines have the capability of finding Web documents and sites which contain the word desalination. Furthermore, they use algorithms for rating the sites and thus return candidate Web pages in a ranked order of estimated relevance - a sort of first-stage culling procedure. Human intervention can then take over and the top returns can be subjectively evaluated.

Since desalination is a relatively small industry and most of the major companies do not yet have significant Web pages, a Top Ten listing covers a lot of what is currently available that is of high quality. Over time this will rapidly change and quite quickly a subject directory approach will need to be taken. Categories will emerge such as

  • major desalination plants
  • reverse osmosis
  • multi-stage flash
  • suppliers to the industry (yellow-pages)
  • research projects underway
  • major people and companies (white-pages)
  • employment opportunities (classifieds)

TOP TEN DESALINATION WEB SITES

Volume 2 December 1997

AQUA-CHEM WORLD INFORMATION CENTER
EUROPEAN DESALINATION SOCIETY
INTERNATIONAL DESALINATION ASSOCIATION
LINK: THE MIDDLE EAST INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE
MEDRC: MIDDLE EAST DESALINATION RESEARCH CENTER
SEAWATER DESALINATION IN CALIFORNIA
U. S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
U. S. WATER NEWS
WATER ONLINE TIMES
WORLD WIDE WATER
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: DESALINATION DIRECTORY ONLINE



TOP TEN DESALINATION WEB SITES

Volume 1 June 1997

Leading URLs Updated December 1997

AQUA-CHEM, Inc.

EUROPEAN DESALINATION SOCIETY

INTERNATIONAL DESALINATION ASSOCIATION

LINK: THE MIDDLE EAST INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MAGAZINE

MEDRC: MIDDLE EAST DESALINATION RESEARCH CENTER

SEAWATER DESALINATION IN CALIFORNIA

U. S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION CONSORTIUM SITE

U. S. WATER NEWS HOME PAGE

WATER ONLINE TIMES

WORLD WIDE WATER

end of article

 

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About the Authors

Nabil El-Ramly is Professor Emeritus, Decision Sciences, in the College of Business Administration at University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus, Honolulu
e-mail: nabil@hawaii.edu
Internet: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~nabil

Richard Einer Peterson is Professor, Financial Economics and Institutions, in the College of Business Administration at University of Hawaii, Manoa Campus, Honolulu
e-mail: rpeterso@hawaii.edu
Internet: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~rpeterso

Linda Volonino is Professor, Management Computer Information Systems, in the College of Business Administration, Canisius College, Buffalo, N.Y.
e-mail: volonino@canisius.edu
Internet: http://www.canisius.edu/~volonino

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Notes

1. URL: http://www.ljcds.pvt.k12.ca.us/US/projects/cyberchem/genchem/sdunbar/sdunbar.html
Also at this site is a description of how the desalination process works:

The concept of desalination can be represented in a simple experiment. First, salt water is boiled in a closed container. The water evaporates and the water vapor travels through a pipe that is tightly connected to the lid. The pipe then loops down through another container of ice water. The vapor in the tube therefore condenses and then becomes fresh water. The salt has been left behind because it could not be evaporated with the boiling water. This particular process is more specifically called distillation. Other methods include freezing, ion-exchange, reverse osmosis and flash distillation

2. URL: http://www.waterproducts.com/aep/desal.htm

Four billion gallons per day of ocean water are desalted worldwide. This is 1.5 billion tg (thousand gallons) per year and at an assumed $5 per tg, there is $7.3 billion spent for ocean water conversion. To this should be added the amount spent on brackish water conversion.

3. Elsewhere, one of the authors (Peterson) developed a Top Ten list of online newspapers and magazines. These Top Ten were described in an article by John Marcus entitled "The Top Ten Web-Based Newspapers and Magazines" which appeared in Database, volume 20, number 1 (February 1997) pp. 80-83.

4. One of the authors (Peterson) has suggested a classification scheme for Internet search engines in an article entitled "Eight Internet Search Engines Compared", as follows:

Primary search engines (search engines)
These use software programs ("robots") to visit sites on the Internet and download their contents into a database which is then indexed. The typical Internet search engine has indexed 50-100 million Web pages.
Mega Search Engines
These are merely sites that have created links to the primary search engines. There are many thousands of such sites and they have the convenience of providing hypertext links to many of the primary search engines.
Simultaneous Mega Search Engines (also known as multithreaded or parallel query engines)
These submit your keyword or search terms simultaneously to many of the primary search engines. There are just a handful, including the following:

MetaCrawler

SavvySearch

Subject Directories
These do not use robots, but instead are manually maintained lists and thus cover a small fraction of the Internet sites. The most famous subject directory, Yahoo!, has indexed about 750,000 Web pages. Unfortunately, Yahoo! does not as yet have a category or subject called desalination.

The primary search engines are like the index of a book and are searchable; the subject directories are like the table of contents and, not being alphabetical, are only browsable.

Robotic Specialized Search Engines
These are robotic search engines which cover just a small proportion of the Internet. An example is NewsWorks, a search engine which has indexed the archives of over 125 newspapers produced by such newspaper publishers such as the Cox newspapers, the Gannet Company, Knight-Ridder, The New York Times Company, and The Washington Post Company.

The six primary search engines are:

Alta Vista
URL: http://www.altavista.digital.com
Excite
URL: http://www.excite.com
HotBot
URL: http://www.hotbot.com
InfoSeek
URL: http://www.infoseek.com
Lycos
URL: http://www.lycos.com
WebCrawler
URL: http://www.webcrawler.com
The "eight Internet search engines" became six due to the consolidation of InfoSeek Guide into InfoSeek Ultra and the inactive status of Open Text at the time of our research.

5. One of the authors (El-Ramly) has a Web site "A Nabil Page: Information on Desalination" which uses InfoSeek's search engine to make the site keyword searchable. The coding for making a site searchable is readily obtained by viewing the "Document Source" of Nabil's Page.

6. To access the electronic bulletin board, you have to visit the Web site; in other words, you have the "pull" the information. If you want the e-mail messages "pushed" or delivered to you, you should join an e-mail discussion group. An example is the Desalination-L listserv. To subscribe, you send an e-mail message to listproc@hawaii.edu, leave the Subject area blank, and in the Body of the message type SUBSCRIBE DESALINATION-L [your name]. More information on Desalination-L is available at http://www2.hawaii.edu~nabil/ listserv.htm

7. This discussion has benefited from the following online sources:

8. Christopher Anderson, 1997. "A Survey of Electronic Commerce," Economist May 10.

9. URL: http:www.educom.edu/web/pubs/pubHomeFrame.html (Edu page), August 21, 1997

10. Economist, loc. cit.

11. ibid.

12. Kambiz Foroohar, loc.cit.


Copyright © 1998, ƒ ¡ ® s † - m ¤ ñ d @ ¥
Finding Top Ten Web Sites Using Search Engines: The Case of The Desalination by Nabil El-Ramly and Richard Einer Peterson.
First Monday, Volume 3, Number 5 - 4 May 1998
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/596/517





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