[This document is a part of the Asia Web Watch: a Register of Statistical Data (est. 1 Oct 1997)]

The Size, Content and Geography of Asian Cyberspace:
An Initial Measurement

Dr T. Matthew Ciolek,
Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies,
Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

To appear in: The Journal of East Asian Libraries, CEAL, 1997.
Document created: 26 Sep 1997. Last revised: 13 Aug 2010.


One of the enduring memories of my childhood in Europe is that of an unheated passenger train traveling through a winter landscape. The windows of my compartment glitter with a coat of frost. The train seems to be cut-off from the world-at-large. It is only by pressing a hand against the surface, or by patient scraping with a key-ring that a tiny patch of glass can be cleared.

Then, as I look through the hole I catch a myriad of incoherent images which whoosh by and disappear. How big they really are, and how these fleeting and disjointed images of potential meadows, trees, buildings and mountains relate to each other I cannot tell, for things happen too fast, and too unexpectedly, and the cleared patch is too small to afford a meaningful perspective.

It is some 50 years later that I find myself in a surprisingly similar predicament. In the short time since WWW technology was made available on the Net, a dazzling and turbulent cloud of networked documents and information resources has shrouded our research activities, as well as the channels of electronic communication. I use the word 'cloud' deliberately, for "the Web is the global sum of the uncoordinated activities of several hundreds of thousands of people who deal with the system as they please. It is a nebulous, ever-changing multitude of computer sites that house continually changing chunks of multimedia information ... all arranged in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes. This information is displayed on millions of pages (files) wired together by multiple hypertext links. If the WWW were compared to a library, the 'books' on its shelves would keep changing their relative locations as well as their sizes and names. Individual 'pages' in those publications would be shuffled ceaselessly. Finally, much of the data on those pages would be revised, updated, extended, shortened, or even deleted without warning almost daily." (Ciolek 1996:106).

Most of us who have access to the Net are well aware that what is happening right now on the Internet is big, unprecedented, and important. Also, we know that it has a direct bearing on our individual and collective futures. But we remain very much like passengers on that frosted-over train, transported willy-nilly to new places but whose overall destination, time-tables and actual route, let alone present whereabouts, are essentially unknown.

Therefore, what I propose to do in this paper is to obtain some rudimentary bearings of where we currently are, and where are we most likely to go. This will be done by establishing a small peep-hole in the sparkling surface of many online phenomena and by taking a fleeting glance at the developments at the very heart of networked Asian Studies research, teaching and librarianship. The information presented in this paper will be fragmentary. This is unavoidable, since the phenomenon under study changes and mutates on a daily, if not hourly basis.

However, there is no doubt that having access to such incomplete, 'Domesday Book' type data, is - ultimately - more useful than having access to no data at all. Also, it will be advantageous to explore possible research methodologies of collecting data on WWW-based information resources. Good practical experience in this hitherto unexplored area will be relevant to the design of any future Internet censuses and stock-takings.


Throughout this paper I shall be making frequent use of such expressions as 'Asian Studies cyberspace', 'Asia-related materials' and 'the Web'.

The folksy but memorable term cyberspace will refer here to the global body of online information available in WWW, as well as ftp and gopher formats. Therefore, it will exclude online information distributed via email, listservs, relay-chats, telnet and other networked technologies.

The geographical boundaries of Asia will be set generously. They will encompass Levant and Caucasus in the West, Siberia and the Russian Far East in the North, Japan in the East, Indonesia (but not Melanesia or Australasia) in the South East, and, Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the South.

The adjective Asian Studies will be used to signal any online information of relevance to social sciences, arts and humanities research on Asia, her regions, territories and countries. Thus a Norwegian database on, say, the economy of Pakistan will be regarded here as a part of the Asian Studies cyberspace, whereas a Pakistani database on the Norwegian economy, will not.

At the same time, the expression Asia-related documents will denote online material referring to Asia in general, or to any of her countries and territories, regardless of whether these materials specialize in social sciences or not. For instance, web pages with a list of Indonesian nuclear reactors, or a directory of exporters of mining equipment to Burma will be treated here as Indonesia- or Burma-related material, in short, as Asia-related material.

Finally, terms such as WWW, Web and the Net will be used to refer to the publicly accessible subsets of the Internet, which also comprise restricted access corporate or military networks and private intranets. Data collected by Network Wizards (1997) suggest that only 22% or 4.4 million of all registered computer hosts are used to form the publicly accessible parts of the Internet. The rest of the equipment is either left temporarily un-installed, or placed on isolated networks or behind firewalls.

Sources of Data and Methodological Issues

This paper makes use of data derived from three major sources.

Firstly, it discusses statistical information on the growth of the Internet as a whole, as well as the growth of one its major components, the WWW. These interlocking sets of figures were originally collected and published by Network Wizards (1977) and Zakon (1977) as well as by Gray (1996). Their data (see Table 1) indicate the operation of three long-term trends. The first two are the continuing exponential growth of both the number of Internet computer hosts and of the WWW servers. The third trend deals with the increasing saturation of the Internet with WWW servers, and therefore, of the online world with Web-based documents and publications.

		   Table 1
     Numbers of WWW sites Jul 93-Jul 97
Date    No. of Web servers    Active Internet Hosts/
				 Web server
07/93 * 	   130 		   3,846
12/93 *	           623               963
07/94 *          2,738               255
12/94 *         10,022   	      99
07/95 *         23,500                46
01/96 *        100,000                17
06/96 **       300,000                 8.5
01/97 **       650,000                 5.2
07/97 **     1,203,096***              3.6

* web and host data from Gray (1996)
** web data from Zakon (1997)
** raw host data from Network Wizards (1997)
*** Netree (1997) postulated, rather unrealistically, on the basis of
extrapolation of server numbers and growth rates from Dec 1995, that in mid Sep
97 there were about 9,600,000 servers.

Secondly, the paper analyses and interprets statistics obtained from a series of systematic English keyword searches directed to the Altavista database (Digital Corporation, 1997). Altavista (see Table 2) is the world's second largest database of Web documents. Assuming (see Table 3) that currently an average Web Server publishes approximately 49.5 documents one can estimate from the Table 1 that the entire universe of Web-based information consists of some 59.4 million online documents or pages. Armed with this information we can see that while the Excite system appears to be more complete (84% coverage of the world's web resources) it appears, to 'know' about fewer documents on Asia, than does the smaller (52% coverage) Altavista system.
				Table 2
         Frequency of occurrence of WWW pages with a keyword 'Asia'
                       in 4 major WWW databases
				         Documents    Asia: non-Asia
Database	Date	Documents     on 'Asia'         docs. ratio
Excite		Sep 97 	  50 mln       325,005            1:154
Altavista	Sep 97    31 mln     1,341,820            1: 23
Lycos 		Sep 97    813,548       94,746	          1:  8
Infoseek        Sep 97  1,027,148      307,494	          1:  3
				Table 3
		Average number of WWW pages per web-server
		   as recorded by Altavista database
Database	Date     	Documents   Servers     Pages/Server
Altavista	Feb 97 	        31 mln	     476,000       65.1
Altavista	Sep 97 	        31 mln       627,000       49.5
Since this study is focused on Asia-related online documents, the Altavista database has been selected as the chief source of intelligence.

It must be noted that statistics derived from Altavista pertain only to English language documents. This is an important issue (see Table 4). The choice of English as the language of enquiry means that this paper excludes from its analyses approximately 10% of Altavista's Asia-related material, simply because it was produced in other languages. On the other hand, the decision to stick to material published in a single (and dominant) language has greatly expedited the task of gathering the replicable data.

                             Table 4
     No of WWW pages in Altavista database (Sep 97) containing
       a keyword 'Asia' as a function of the page's language
                - a comparison of 15 assorted languages.
Any language  -   1,341,820
English       -   1,122,770
Finnish       -      29,960
Japanese      -      13,130
Spanish       -       6,920
Italian       -       5,200
Chinese       -       5,840
German        -         906*
French        -         757**
Norwegian     -	        729
Portuguese    -	        265
Dutch         -	        255
Swedish       -         188
Korean	      -	        175
Greek         -          35
Estonian      -           1

* German keyword 'Asien' returns 13,840 pages
** French keyword 'Asie' returns 15,680 pages

The final methodological decision related to the use of Altavista was to convert raw statistics on a number of URLs (uncovered via keywords searches) into estimates of equivalent Web servers. In other words, every 49.5 pages, regardless of their actual provenance, were treated as a rough equivalent of one web server. Thus, for example, a figure of 460 servers dealing with Afghanistan was based on the finding that an Altavista query involving the keyword 'Afghanistan' generates links to 22,770 distinct pages (URLs) with that keyword. Also, a decision was made that all server statistics are to be rounded to the nearest ten units.

The third source of data used in this paper is material drawn from a 10 and half month- long (Nov 96 - 15 Sep 97) set of issues of "What's New in WWW Asian Studies Online Newsletter " (Ciolek 1997). The objectives of the e-journal, its coverage as well as methods of data collection and distribution are discussed in detail in Ciolek (1995) and therefore need not to be repeated here. The choice of this particular time-frame was dictated by convenience. Since 1 Nov 96 all resources listed with the Newsletter were systematically given a 'research usefulness' rating on a 5 point scale: essential - very useful - useful - interesting - marginal. These scores meant that, on the one end of the scale, an online resource was judged to be a trustworthy scholarly or factual monograph or data-set, while on the other, it was found to have a fragment or two of useful material but was, otherwise, largely irrelevant to serious scholarly work. The entire set of 530 announcements published in the Newsletter during the sampled period was inspected to eliminate any redundancies (i.e. occasional repeat announcements), as well as to remove materials pertaining to societies, economies, languages etc. located in Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia as well as Australia and New Zealand (Australasia). This pruning operation yielded a final total of 464 data-points on web sites falling into the Asian Studies cyberspace category. Additionally, in order to estimate the ratio of useful/useless online documents the set of 464 Newsletter data was contrasted with an guesstimated number of 319 resources (= 1 item for each day of the 319 days of the studied period, a conservative assumption) which were inspected by this editor with the view of their publication in the Newsletter but were rejected on the grounds of vacuity or triviality.

To what extent are the Newsletter data congruent with those obtained from Altavista searches ? This question is answered by Table 5.

		    Table 5
  Comparison of geographic coverage  by  web sites
   recorded in  "What's New in WWW Asian Studies
      Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97) and
           Altavista database (Sep 97)
			          WWW sites
Region dealt with 	   Newsletter    Altavista
Middle East		       2%         16%
Caucasus	 	       2%          7%
Central Asia		       4%          1%
South Asia		      20%         11%
South East Asia		      25%         22%
East Asia 		      47%         44%
TOTAL			     100%        101%
			377 sites   170,950  sites
The above juxtaposition indicates that the Newsletter greatly underreports online developments dealing with the Middle East and Caucasus, and over-reports existence of web sites dealing with Central Asia and South Asia. However, both sources of data show a comparable level of coverage for countries of the South East Asia and East Asia regions. In other words, while not in full synchrony with each other, both sources of information seem to be in agreement with respect to some 66% of online materials they cover. It was assumed, therefore, that the two sources could be legitimately used together for the purposes of this paper.

The chief purpose of this study is to provide a first attempt at a census of the Asian Studies and Asia-related networked information. Therefore, the main emphasis will be placed on descriptive statistics provided in form of tables with numeric data. Since the collected figures should speak for themselves quite eloquently I shall keep any commentaries and interpretations to a bare minimum.

The Number of Asia-related Online Materials

An investigation of contents of the Altavista database (see Table 6), carried out with a 7 month interval (Feb/Sep) in 1997 shows that during the studied period an overall number of WWW servers containing documents with keywords corresponding to the names of Asian countries (or provinces and territories) has doubled from over 80 thousand to over 170 thousands (see also Table 7).

				Table 6
	Estimated number of Web servers dealing with Asian countries,
		 as recorded by Altavista database
Country	    	     Feb 97	     Sep 97
Afghanistan 		460 		790
Bahrain 		460 		730
Iran 			920 	      1,710
Iraq 			300  		740
Israel 		      7,700 	     11,800
Jordan * 		300             470
Kurdistan		 80 		 60
Kuwait 		        460 	        770
Lebanon 		300 	      1,810
Oman 			300 		540
Palestine 		300 		820
Qatar 			150 		380
Saudi Arabia 		460 		600
Syria 			300 		700
Turkey		      1,600           4,520
United Arab Emirates 	150 		300
Yemen   		150 		290
TOTAL     	      4,390 (18%)    27,030 (16% of Asia-related
                                             online materials)
Armenia   		460 		780
Azerbaijan   		150 		490
Chechnya 		 90 		190
Georgia **	 	300  	     10,060
TOTAL	               1000 (1%)     11,520 (7% of Asia-related
					     online materials)
Kazakhstan 		300 		350
Kyrgyzstan 		100 		170
Tajikistan 		100 		170
Turkmenistan		100 		160
Uzbekistan 		150 		270
TOTAL		        750 (1%)      1,120 (1% of Asia-related
					     online materials)
Bangladesh 		770	      1,240
Bhutan			150	        350
India		      6,200 	     12,680
Kashmir		        130	        200
Maldives		150 	        250
Nepal			920 	      1,250
Pakistan		920 	      1,680
Sri Lanka		460 	        540
TOTAL	              9,700 (12%)    18,190 (11% of Asia-related
					     online materials)
Brunei			300 		610
Burma			460 		870
Cambodia		460 		790
East Timor		 60 		 90
Indonesia	      3,100 	      4,850
Laos			460 		510
Malaysia	      3,100 	      5,350
Philippines	      1,540           3,070
Singapore	      6,200          11,940
Thailand	      3,100 	      5,460
Vietnam	              1,600           4,080
TOTAL	             20,280 (25%)    37,620 (22% of Asia-related
					     online materials)
China ***	     10,800 	     19,590
Hong Kong	      3,100 	      3,540
Japan	             15,400 	     43,490
Korea (North)	        150 		210
Korea (South)		300 		550
Macau			300 		430
Mongolia		150 		440
Siberia			150 		390
Taiwan		      3,100           5,940
Tibet			600		890
TOTAL 	             34,050 (43%)    75,470 (44% of Asia-related
					     online materials)
ASIA TOTAL	     80,170 (100%)  170,950 (101%)

* The number of servers dealing with the Kingdom of Jordan may be overestimated
because the keyword may also refer to a number of other geographic locations in
Australia and North America (The Times Atlas of the World, 1994:188) and also
is a widely used Anglo-Saxon surname (Telstra 1997).
** The data for Georgia are derived from a search combining keywords 'Georgia' and 'Republic'. This is because the name of the Asian country also refers to the name of a state in the US.
*** Note that the number of servers dealing with the country of China may be overestimated because the keyword may also refer to popular term for porcelain.
Furthermore, Table 6 also shows that the largest amount of Web material deals with countries of East Asia (44%), and South East Asia (22%) with a more moderate interest shown in the affairs and resources of the Caucasus (7%), South Asia (11%) and the Middle East (16%). Finally Table 6 suggests that practically minimal online attention is paid to the countries of Central Asia (1%). These trends can also be observed in Table 7.
			Table 7
Increase in the number of Web servers dealing with countries
    of  Asian regions as recorded by Altavista database
Region		     Feb 97		Sep 97
Middle East 	     14,390      	27,030
Caucasus 	       1000       	11,520
Central Asia 	        750       	 1,120
South Asia 	      9,700      	18,190
South East Asia      20,280      	37,620
East Asia 	     34,050      	75,470
TOTAL	             80,170	       170,950   113% growth
The main message conveyed by Table 7 is that of the rapid growth in the volume of the Asia-related online publications. However, the speed with which English-language Web documents related to a given Asian country are placed on the network appears to be a function of many inter-related variables.

It will be premature at this point in time to speculate about the reasons, such as the strength of the economy, political stature, public-relations' skills or the ubiquity of the telecommunication resources for which country X has a greater 'online presence' than a country Y. Nevertheless, it must be noted (see Table 8) that not only do certain countries have a greater share of the Asia-related online materials, but also that they tend to increase their share at the expense of other, less dynamic in their uses of the Internet (or perhaps, less popular, less 'sexy') countries.

				Table 8
12 Asian countries with the largest share of  Asia-related
cyberspace as recorded by Altavista database (Feb-Sep 97)
Country	            Feb 97	 	Sep 97      Growth
Japan	             15,400 	   	43,490        182%
China		     10,800 	     	19,590	       81%
India		      6,200 	     	12,680        104%
Singapore	      6,200             11,940         92%
Israel 		      7,700 	     	11,800         53%
Georgia  	        300  	        10,060       3352%
Taiwan		      3,100              5,940 	       91%
Thailand	      3,100 	      	 5,460 	       76%
Malaysia	      3,100 	      	 5,350 	       72%
Indonesia	      3,100 	      	 4,850 	       56%
Turkey		      1,600           	 4,520 	      182%
Vietnam	              1,600            	 4,080 	      155%
Total  		    62,200	       145,760      
Table 8 reveals that while the average growth for all the Asia-related WWW material between February and September 1997 was about 113%, the numbers of pages dealing with the Republic of Georgia grown an astonishing 3352%, and Japan- and Turkey-related web pages have increased at very strong rate of 180%. The table also shows that twelve of the countries which were most visible on the Web were responsible for 80% of the Asia-related English-language web pages, with Japan being the undisputed focus of online attention (25%), followed somewhat more sluggishly by online interest in China (11%) and India (7%). In other words, 22% of Asian countries (12 out of 55) are discussed by 85% of all Asia-related Web-based documents.

The Quality of Asian Studies Cyberspace

While there is a great proliferation in the number of networked documents dealing with Asia, there is also an unfortunate flood of online materials which, ideally, should not ever be offered for public consumption at all. Data listed in Table 9 indicate that 40-50% of the Asian Studies resources published on the Net tend to be useless mediocrities, about 40% of the materials are quite worthy of one's attention and the remaining 10 % can be classified as potentially 'interesting'.

			 Table 9
      The Quality of Asian Studies WWW Resources
[779 materials (1 Nov 96-15 Sep 97) considered for publication in
      "What's New in WWW Asian Studies Online Newsletter"]
Essential  		  52	  7%
V.Useful  		 106     13%
Useful 	        	 143     18%
Interesting  		 102     13%
Marginal  		  51	  7%
Useless * 	         319     41%
rating not available  	  10   	  1%
Total		         783    100%
* useless, rejected  materials     
If this pattern is extrapolated to Asia-related materials uncovered in keyword searches of Altavista, the conclusion is truly stunning - the contents of about 85 thousand Web servers (i.e. one half of the current number of 170,000 Asia-related servers) designed, financed, constructed and maintained in all parts of the world could be safely switched-off, not only without any loss to any-one, but actually to the great benefit of all of serious Net users.

The reason for this disconcerting state of affairs is simple. Until the early 1990s the technology of electronic placement of information was prohibitively complicated and fairly expensive. Not everybody had an account on a networked computer and not everybody was skilled enough in the construction of WAIS databases, ftp archives or gopher subject-trees. Therefore most of the informational floodgates were kept shut. However, the advent of the HTML and convenient graphic WWW browsers has changed the situation dramatically. From September 1993 onwards any snippet of data could be easily placed for public viewing by almost anyone. The end result of the widespread introduction of the Web as the 'enabling technology' is that documents, photographs, sketches and notes which hitherto were disseminated by hand only within a narrow circle of friends and relatives are now accessible electronically to anyone anywhere, globally.

In other words, the long-standing boundary between 'informal' and 'private' vs. 'public' and 'official' information has been irrevocably breached, and the two worlds, which formerly co-existed separately, have now been conjoined and hopelessly mixed up. The democratic and anti-establishement aspects (Rutkowski 1994) of the Net also mean that from a point of view of a Web database, the Bible and the Britannica, constitute a mere bunch of URLs, no different from those leading to a pre-schooler's grafitti or a circus poster.

The Content of Asian Studies Cyberspace

One of the ways of looking at the 464 announcements of new or modified Asian Studies web sites recorded in the Newsletter (see Table 10) is in terms of their contents.

			Table 10
            Subject matter of  Asian Studies WWW sites
           as recorded by "What's New in WWW Asian
          Studies Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
Category					    WWW sites
(organisations, associations)			    100	    22%
(Internet  directories, libraries, bookshops)	     90     19%
ONLINE NEWS & PERIODICALS			     51     11%
(economy, trade, business, tourism)      	     48     10%
(resources, bibliographies, experts) 		     47     10%
CULTURE & ART                                        35      8%
(demography, history, religion, health)	             35      8%
(hist-, relig-, lang.-documents, photographs)	     32      7%
(government, security, intl. relations)		     17      4%
ENVIRONMENT					      9      2%
TOTAL                                               464    101%
One fifth (20%) of all sites appear to be describing mission statements and organizational structures of those institutions (university departments, research associations, businesses, government bodies etc) which have a stake in Asian affairs. Another 20% of the sites deal with meta-information, that is, online information about sources of online information about Asia. The next three categories, each representing about 10% of all analysed sites, deal respectively, with (a) the Asian news and commentaries; (b) Asian economy, trade and business; and finally, (c) with educational issues and resources relevant to tertiary teaching about Asia.

The content of Web sites registered with the Newsletter appears to be influenced (see Table 11) by the country in which such sites have been established.

			Table 11
Location of an  Asian Studies web site  vs. its subject matter *
      as recorded by "What's New in WWW Asian
     Studies Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
Location of  	                        Topic
the WWW site
USA	      30    28   21   11    18     17    15   15     9    5    169
Australia     11    23    5    1     3      -     2    3     3    1     52
Indonesia     10    2     3    5     -      4     1    -     -    2	27
Japan          2    -     1    4     5      1     2    6     -    -     21
Canada	       2    2     3    2     3      1     2    1     -    -	20
China	       1    5     2    7     1      1     -    1     1	  -     19
India	       2    4     4    -     1      4     -    1     -    -	15
UK	       6    3     -    2     2      -     2    -     -    -	15
Philippines    6    2     1    2     1      -     2    -     -    -     14
Germany        4    1     1    1     -      2     1    -     -    -     10
Hong Kong      4    -     1    2     1      1     1    -     -    -     10

* a case of 11 countries with the largest input to Asian Studies cyberspace

For example, Web systems established in the USA seem to be concentrating on corporate information (18% of US web sites), as well as on providing guides to Asian cyberspace (17%). By contrast, China-based resources dedicated themselves mainly to information about trade, business and economy (37%) and to publishing online guides to Asian cyberspace (26%). At the same time, Web sites established in Japan tend to favour publication of online texts & images (29%) as well as provision of tertiary education tools and resources (24%). At this stage it is not possible to decide whether the above differences should be interpreted as a result of tacit but deliberate national policies and agendas, or simply as the outcome of random factors.

The Geographical Focus of Asian Studies Cyberspace

Furthermore, Web sites listed with the Newsletter testify to an uneven allocation of interest (see Table 12) in countries comprising Asia. For instance, there are five countries (or as in the case of Tibet, territories) which tend to attract the attention of the largest number of Asian Studies web sites. These are: China (talked about by 80 web sites, or 17% of the whole Asian cyberspace), Indonesia (talked about by 32 web sites or 7% of the total), Japan (26 or 6%) and, finally, India and Tibet (talked about by 23 web sites each or 5% each). In other words, the 9% of all Asian countries (5 out of 55) attract 40% of the Asian Studies cyberspace attention.

		   Table 12
   Geographic coverage of  Asian Studies web sites
    as recorded by "What's New in WWW Asian
   Studies Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
Country  dealt with	      no of WWW sites
ASIA in general		                87
MIDDLE EAST in general	                 2
Afghanistan 			         1
Israel 				         1
Palestine 		 	         2
Saudi Arabia 		 	         1
Turkey		                         1
CAUCASUS in general 	                 1
Armenia   			         1
Azerbaijan   			         2
Chechnya 			         1
Georgia 	 		         1
CENTRAL ASIA in general	                13
Kazakhstan 			         1
Kyrgyzstan 			         2
Tajikistan 			         1
SOUTH ASIA in general	                33
Bangladesh 			         3
Bhutan				         3
India			                23
Nepal				         5
Pakistan 			         6
Sri Lanka 			         1
SOUTH EAST ASIA	 in general              9
Burma				         1
East Timor			         2
Indonesia 		                32
Laos				         1
Malaysia 			         1
Philippines 		                15
Singapore 			         2
Thailand 			         8
Vietnam	 		                24
EAST ASIA in general	                14
China		    	      	        80
E.Turkistan			         3
Hong Kong	       	        	 5
Japan	    		                26
Korea Nth & Sth                         15
Macau			 	         1
Mongolia			         4
Siberia				         2
Taiwan		                         4
Tibet			                23
TOTAL			               464
A similar trend towards a skewed distribution of interest in Asian matters is displayed also at the regional level (see Table 13).
		       Table 13
     Geographic coverage of  Asian Studies web sites
     as recorded by "What's New in WWW Asian
     Studies Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
Region dealt with	   no of WWW sites
Asia  			 87	     19%
Middle East		  8           2%
Caucasus	 	  6           1%
Central Asia		 17	      4%
South Asia		 74          16%
South East Asia		 95          20%
East Asia 		177          38%
TOTAL			464         100%
When target (= talked about, dealt with) countries are aggregated into regional groups one can see that both East Asia (177 web sites or 38%) and South East Asia (95 or 20%) constitute the most popular topics. These two regions claim the attention of some 60% of online documents and publications.

The Geographical Focus and Location of Asian Studies Cyberspace

Which region of Asia is dealt with online appears to be determined by the geographical location of the online information system itself (see Table 14).

		Table 14
Location of an Asian Studies web site  and  its geographic coverage
as recorded by "What's New in WWW Asian
Studies Online Newsletter" (Nov 96-Sep 97)
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------			Table 14
Location of  	                 Region dealt with
the WWW site	   Asia	 ME  Cauc. CA   SA   SEA  East A.    TOTAL
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------			Table 14
Europe		   17    1    -     8   14    7    22          69   15%
Nth America	   28    3    4     8   36   22    84         185   40%
Sth America	    -    -    -     -    -    -     1           1    0%
Australasia        29    -    -     -    5   14     9          57   12%
Middle East	    -    4    -     -    -    -     -           4    1%
Caucasus	    -    -    2     -    -    -     -           2    0%
Central Asia	    -    -    -     1    -    -     -           1    0%
South Asia	    1    -    -     -   18    -     2          21    5%
South East Asia     8    -    -     -    -   51     2          61   13%
East Asia 	    4    -    -     -    1    1    57          63   14%
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------			Table 14
TOTAL    	  87     8    6    17   74   95   177         464  100%
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------			Table 14
There seem to be at least two possible trends, one towards the coverage of several regions at the same time, the other one towards narrower specialization.

Table 14 shows that Web servers situated in Europe, North America and Australasia tend to cover a number of Asian regions, whereas servers in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia are focussed on the issues of their own region.

For instance, major European preoccupations seem to be East Asia (32%), Asia as a whole (25%), and South Asia (20%). In the case of North America, these are East Asia (45%), South Asia (20%) and Asia in general (15%). Australian and NZ web servers, in turn, tend to focus chiefly on Asia as a whole (51%), South East Asia (25%), and East Asia (16%). In sum, between 77% and 92% of the Asian-focussed resources established in those regions devote their attention to two of the three major Asian regions, as well as to Asian continent as a whole. These three Asian regions, however, seem to be interested chiefly in themselves. The percentages of web sites dealing with the countries of their own region are: South Asia - 86%; South East Asia - 84%; and, finally, East Asia - 90%.

How statistically and socially significant these figures are cannot be answered without further research.


A number of points can be made here.

Firstly, observations derived from Altavista suggest that the present volume of Asia-related online information is substantial. It is the equivalent of some 18,700 books and it grows rapidly in size, with the doubling period being, at this stage, about 6 months.

			Table 15
       Estimated size of Asia-related cyberspace,
              as recorded by Altavista database
	    	    			 Feb 97	    	 Sep 97
Estimated no. of web servers *	         80,170		170,950
Estimated no. of web pages (URLs)	5.2 mln		8.4 mln
Percent of the whole WWW space
	on Altavista			  16.8% 	  27.0%
Total volume of Asian Studies
	      	information ** 	        20.8 Gb		33.6 Gb
Traditional library equivalent *** 11,500 books    18,700 books

*   65.1 pages/server in Feb 97; 49.5 in Sep 97
**  1 web page = approx. 4 Kb
*** 1 book (300 pages) = approx. 1,800 Kb

Secondly, while half of the online information can be safely ignored, the other half appears to be interesting, if not useful. Clearly, a new form of librarianship may need to be established fairly soon in order to keep track of the location, nature and factual content of that information.

Thirdly, several of the statistics presented above were based on data from 464 web sites listed during a 10 months period in the "What's New in WWW Asian Studies Online Newsletter." Clearly, the sample used in this study is, on the whole, too small to generate firm conclusions. Ideally, such a sample should be at least trebled or quadrupled in size for reliable analysis. Fortunately, the Newsletter has been continuously published since April 1994 and it archives materials covering some additional 30 months.

Fourthly, this exploratory study demonstrates that it is technically possible to start uncovering trends and regularities in materials derived from both large scale databases and small scale research collections. However, in order for those apparent regularities to be taken seriously, their statistical significance needs to be properly ascertained. Certainly, subsequent censuses of the numbers and holdings of Asian Studies cyberspace will benefit from the application of suitable and rigorous statistical tests.

Finally, any useful research on the size, nature and directions taken by the Asian cyberspace and Asia-related information systems needs to be done on a regular and systematic basis. The need for one or more Web 'watching posts' which will systematically collect, archive and tabulate all relevant statistical data is already apparent.

There are number of practical as well as intellectual reasons why regular censuses of the Web, including Asian Web, should be initiated at the earliest opportunity. I will allude to just one of them, perhaps the oldest and most elementary one.

In 1838 Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini, an ex-staff officer in Napoleon's and in Alexander I's armies, wrote: "Nothing should be neglected to acquire a knowledge of the geography and the .... statistics of other states, so as to know their material and moral capacity for attack and defense, as well as the strategic advantages of the two parties" (Jomini, 1996:50).

The old colonel, of course, referred to the geopolitical considerations of the 19th century Europe. There is no doubt, however, that his admonitions are equally pertinent to the fast emerging world of networked communications of the 21st century, the Asia-Pacific century.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the session of the Council on East Asian Libraries (CEAL) held at the AAS Annual Meeting, Chicago, USA, in March 1997. My participation in this event was made possible by a CEAL travel grant and supplementary grants-in-aid from the East Asian Library Resources Group of Australia (EALRGA) as well as from the Division of Pacific and Asian History, RSPAS, ANU. My words of thanks are due to Ms Gail King, Editor of the Journal of East Asian Libraries, for prevailing upon me to complete work on this paper despite the numerous and irresistible distractions of my day-to-day responsibilities. I am also grateful to Ms Kendra Wilkes, who in Aug 2010 has spotted in this paper a couple of broken web links. Finally, I am grateful to Monika Ciolek for critical comments on the first draft of this article.


[The great volatility of online information means that some of the URLs listed below may change by the time this article is printed. Naturally, in the online paper I will try, whenever it is feasible, to have them repaired/corrected.]

  • Ciolek. T. Matthew. 1995. Ensuring High Quality in Multifaceted Information Services. Proceedings of the AUUG'95 and Asia-Pacific WWW'95 Conference, September 17-21 1995, Sydney, Australia. pp. 68-75.

  • Ciolek. T. Matthew. 1996. Today's WWW - tomorrow's MMM? The specter of multi- media mediocrity. IEEE COMPUTER, January 1996, Vol 29(1) pp. 106-108.

  • Ciolek, T. Matthew (ed.). 1997. What's New in WWW Asian Studies Online Newsletter. Australian National University, Canberra.
    Between Apr 1994 and Nov 1997 the journal was called "What's New ... " and it was published at http://coombs.anu.edu.au/asia-www-news.html
    From Dec 1997 onwards the journal was called Asian Studies WWW Monitor (ISSN 1329-9778), and it was published at http://coombs.anu.edu.au/asia-www-monitor.html

  • Digital Corporation. 1997. Altavista - The Internet's Home Page

  • Gray, Matthew K. 1996. Web Growth Summary. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  • Jomini, Antoine Henry de, Baron. 1996. The Art of War. London: Greenhill Books.

  • Network Wizards. 1997. Internet Domain Survey - July 1997.

  • Netree. 1997. Internet Statistics - Estimated.

  • Rutkowski, Anthony-Michael. 1994. The Present and Future of the Internet: Five Faces. Keynote Address. Networld+Interop 94 Tokyo 27-29 July 1994.

  • The Times Atlas of the World: Concise Edition. 1994. London: Times Books.

  • Telstra. 1997. White Pages - Canberra, Queanbeyan, Yass. Sydney: Telstra Corporation.

  • Zakon, Robert H. 1997. Hobbes' Internet Timeline.
    In 1997 the timeline was at http://info.isoc.org/guest/zakon/Internet/History/HIT.html
    in 2010 it was at http://www.zakon.org/robert/internet/timeline/

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