Volume 11 (2) March/April 1997
Statistics......Do you believe them????
I have been asked by many people about the relevance and interpretation of web access statistics. Access statistics can be very deceptive. Whenever a web page is requested, several computer files are usually downloaded. If a page has graphics, then each graphic represents a file, as does the page of text, and in addition, if a page has frames, then each frame represents a separate file. For example, if a web page has six different graphics, then 7 files are downloaded (including the text). Most web sites will quote their access statistics as 'hits', which usually equates to file downloads. Therefore each time you request one page you are in fact crediting the site with several hits (7 in the example quoted). This is obviously meaningless and a site with many graphics will have inflated and meaningless statistics. At PharmWeb we actually filter out all requests for images (jpegs and gifs) and therefore our access statistics provide a realistic estimate of our usage. Effectively, each request represents a page download. The statistics we display on the PharmWeb statistics page are only for the UK mirror sites (which represent 2 out of the 10 sites around the World). The true access statistics are therefore actually much larger. Given that North America represents the largest population of Internet users and that there are four mirror sites present in the region, it may well be that the true access statistics are an order of magnitude greater than those for the UK servers! Access to the UK servers has increased dramatically since the launch of PharmWeb in 1994. This is not surprising considering that the number of users of the Internet has grown from perhaps less than 100,000 in the early 1990's to the present estimate of over 60 million. Requests to the UK PharmWeb servers have averaged over a quarter of a million per month this year and over 7,000 different sites are accessing the UK servers each month (this is an underestimate as approximately 15% of sites can't be identified). In addition PharmWeb is regularly being accessed by approximately 90 different countries a month and a total of 117 countries have accessed the servers. For further information see: http://www.pharmweb.net/pharmweb/statistics.html
The way we connect to the Internet is likely to change dramatically in the next few years. It is unlikely that telephone modems will provide the bandwidth required for present and future developments. Several high bandwidth alternatives are available or being developed for home and small business users. ISDN offers fast access for users in many countries, though pricing can be prohibitive. Satellites are also being considered as a means of delivering information. Requests for information are made via a conventional telephone modem and the information is delivered via satellite and a special computer card. Another exciting development is the use of cable modems which offer permanent high bandwidth connections to users.
As usual, if you have found any interesting sites on the Internet that we have not listed on PharmWeb and that may be of interest to the pharmacy community, please let us know.
Dr. A. D'Emanuele