(photo credit: http://seomarketingsrv.com/)
In the essay, “A Fair History of the Web? Examining Country Balance in the Internet”, authors Mike Thelwall and Liwen Vaughan investigate the possible reasons behind the uneven representation of international websites on the Internet Archive. The biggest issue (which is still the case) is “the ability of search engines to find pages through links and their ability to index them”. (p165) It is also true as the authors state that “the visibility of a website..is known to affect a site’s chance of being indexed by search engines”. (p167) This is an issue that I also face continuously with my own website and it was not until I inserted a SEO widget that my site began to gain more visibility and page views. SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization which is the process that affects the visibility of a website. For example, if I had a post title with a symbol in it such as an asterisk, if the Google or Yahoo search engines “crawled” my website, they would not pick up on my post and list it in their search engine because of the asterisk. The SEO Widget informs me in advance before I post that the asterisk would affect the post’s visibility. All large music sites like Billboard and MTV pay huge amounts for SEO agencies but one is able to obtain a similar tool for free.
The authors posit in their conclusion that “poorer countries generally will be underrepresented” on the Internet Archive and the same could be said for smaller websites and archival sites from even those countries that are represented because of the lack of SEO visibility. The Caribbean Histories website does not appear to have this issue because of where the website is located and hosted. The Caribbean Histories website is essentially a massive clearinghouse of British-based information on the British colonies of the West Indies. It is not a separate site with its own domain; rather it is housed under the larger umbrella of the United Kingdom’s National Archive website. Immediately one who is well versed in colonial history would become naturally suspicious of the information presented by the site. The site tries to assuage these possible feeling of mistrust by stating that although most of its documents are from correspondence from British administrators, they have also tried to include archival materials form other sections of the Caribbean population including testimonies from women and poor people. The site presents written text along with other multimedia such as photographs, advertisements, news articles and sketchings. Because the site is located within the realm of the much larger national Archive site, it is more likely that it will be easily found the search engines and thus provide scholars with quick and reachable information. While I am not convinced that it is the most optimum situation (meaning the documents are still in the hands of the colonial power), I can appreciate that in the digital world that counts the most is the ease and swiftness of accessibility.