Wednesday, 11 December 12, 2002


National Archives of Australia


A new website Standard with the potential to revolutionise the way
information is sorted on the Internet will be launched at the National
Archives of Australia at 11 am on Wednesday 11 December.
Lists of irrelevant websites generated by web searches will be a thing of
the past thanks to the Australian Standard developed by the National
Archives, Standards Australia, industry, and state governments. The Standard
promises to eliminate the hundreds of irrelevant 'hits' usually generated by
search engines.

The Chief Executive of Standards Australia, Ross Wraight, says, 'It will
make web searches far more efficient and accurate and I encourage anyone
working with the web to adopt the Standard'.

The Director of Recordkeeping Standards and Policy at the National Archives,
Adrian Cunningham, says that the new Standard has been designed to help Web
publishers and virtual communities of interest to provide efficient and
user-friendly access to specific areas of the Internet.

'Although commercial Web-based search engines are getting cleverer at
sifting through the seemingly endless amount of information on the Web, they
are essentially fighting a losing battle in keeping pace with the explosion
of resources in cyberspace,' Mr Cunningham said.

The AGLS Metadata Standard - AS 5044 - defines 19 structured information
elements which can be used to construct web-based descriptions of
information and services. These elements include author, title, subject,
audience, function and availability.

The AGLS metadata can be stored in the header of a Web page, in a
web-accessible database or in a 'harvest control list'.

When the information or service described by the metadata is available on
the Web, there will be a direct link from the metadata to the resource. When
the information or service is available elsewhere and not on a website, the
location and availability of the resource will be described in the metadata.
These details can be viewed by a user when they conduct a search on a
metadata-enabled search engine.

AGLS metadata is already being used extensively by governments in Australia.
The Commonwealth government, for example, has mandated use of AGLS metadata
as a key enabler of its E-Government Strategy. Government agencies are
required to identify their key services and on-line information resources
and to deploy AGLS metadata records for each of these on their website. This
metadata is harvested by the Federal government's Web entry point - - and other client-focussed Web portals such as HealthInsite
- - to provide accurate and efficient responses to
searches by those search engines.

'The aim of the initiative is to use the Web to maximise the visibility and
availability of government information and services. Use of the standard
will help ensure that when someone uses the Web to find a government
resource they find what they are looking for rather than give up in
frustration,' Mr Cunningham said.

For example, if you use the AltaVista search engine, which does not use AGLS
metadata, for information on preschool education in South Australia, you are
told that there are over 2 million Web pages located by the search. However,
if you search the South Australian portal at which relies on
AGLS metadata, you are told that there are 20 Web sites that match the
search. Clearly, it is more helpful for users to locate 20 resources that
accurately match their search than to expect them to wade through 2 million
Web pages, most of which are irrelevant.

Mr Wraight said that the potential of AGLS is not limited to the public

'Any community of interest can use the Web to provide fast and efficient
access to diverse resources. Recognising this, Standards Australia's
Committee, IT/21 Records Management, decided to develop AGLS as an
Australian Standard,' Mr Wraight said.

'AGLS has the advantage of being a tried and tested approach to on-line
resource discovery. It was originally developed in 1998 under the leadership
of the National Archives and the then Office of Government Information
Technology,' he added.

Australian Standards are developed through a consensus-based process with
the cooperation of industry bodies, trade associations, government, and
consumer groups.

This new Standard will help to bring order to the chaos of cyberspace.
For further information contact:

Mr Adrian Cunningham,
Director, Record Keeping Standards and Policy,
National Archives of Australia

Phone: 02 6212 3988.