October 17, 2019

New Article: “The Rise and Fall of Text on the Web: a Quantitative Study of Web Archives”

The following article appears in the latest issue of Information Research.


The Rise and Fall of Text on the Web: a Quantitative Study of Web Archives


Anthony Cocciolo
Pratt Institute


Information Research
Vol 20 No 3 (September 2015)


Introduction. This study addresses the following research question: is the use of text on the World Wide Web declining? If so, when did it start declining, and by how much has it declined?

Method. Web pages are downloaded from the Internet Archive for the years 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2014, producing 600 captures of 100 prominent and popular Webpages in the United States from a variety of sectors.

Analysis. Captured Webpages were analysed to uncover if the percentage of text they present to users has declined over the past fifteen years using a computer vision algorithm, which deciphers text from non-text. The percentage of text per Webpage is computed as well as the mean percentage of text per year. A one-way ANOVA is used to uncover if the percentage of text on Webpages is reliant on the year the Website was produced.

Results. Results reveal that the percentage of text on Webpages climbed from the late 1990s to 2005 where it peaked (with 32.4% of the Webpage), and has been in decline ever since. Websites in 2014 have 5.5% less text than 2005 on average, or 26.9% text. This is more text than in the late 1990s, with Webpages having only 22.4% text.

Conclusions. This study confirms using a systematic approach what many have observed anecdotally: that the percentage of text on Webpages is decreasing.

Direct to Full Text Article

See Also: Anthony Cocciolo’s Blog Including a Post About the Article

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.