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Current Situation

Currently, resources on the World Wide Web are primarily available for display purposes to humans. There is a limited ability by computer applications to process these resources. If you want to find some information on the Web, and you do not know the exact address of a resource, you can use a search engine. Given keywords that you specify, search engines find the resources that contain embedded text, or have metadata tags associated with the resources, that match the keywords. The process works, but it is very inefficient.

Consider an example of this. Suppose you want to buy a bicycle. With a basic knowledge of the kind of bicycle you want and how much you want to spend, but not knowing what is available in the marketplace, you turn to the Internet for help.


First Search

Using your favorite search engine, you type in the keyword bicycle and click on the Search button. Your search returns a list of over 16 million web sites, all of which have something to do with bicycle. The first page of your search result lists sites for:

The manufacturer and accessory sites are useful (but incomplete) because they give you information about the type of bicycle and kinds of accessories (like helmets, clothing and lights) you can buy. What they don't tell you is where you can buy them or how much they cost.


Second Search

Refining your search, you type the name of your city, in addition to bicycle, as a second keyword. Clicking on the Search button now returns just over 100,000 web sites (still an unmanageable list). The first page of this new search result lists sites for:


Third Search

Refining the search further, you type shops as a third keyword. Clicking on the Search button now returns over 23,000 web sites. The result is getting better, but the size is still unmanageable. But at least your search is now starting to list sites that provide links to bicycle shops in your city.

Navigating the links to the bicycle shops that you think are appropriate, perhaps because of their close proximity to your home or work, you can now visit each bike shop's web site individually and determine information such as:

Without taking this example any further, you can see that this is a fairly long and involved process. It is not very efficient as you didn't get the information you were looking for straight away. And you are still left with the prospect of visiting each bike shop's web site (individually!) to find the bicycle you want, at the price you want to pay. And if you do find what you want, at a price you are prepared to pay, there is nothing about whether it is in stock and what the wait will be if it has to be ordered from the manufacturer.

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