The invisible web
The invisible web is defined as the collection of academic data that is not searchable through the traditional method of using a search engine (Lewandowski & Mayr, 2006). With the growth and expansion of the internet search engines are unable to search many web pages that are at least partially accessible (Anderson, 2008). This unreachable area of the internet has many names including: the hidden web, the dark web, the deep web, and the invisible web.
When searching for information online, the average user will not know if the results provided are from the visible or invisible web (Anderson, 2008). The search engine will do it’s best to retrieve all the information that it has available, and return what it has found. There is no way of telling what information was left behind. However, Anderson (2008) believes that much of the invisible web is in fact discoverable and retrievable. He suggests the use of Bright Planet http://www.brightplanet.com , because it claims to search more than 70,000 databases in a variety of formats.
Apparently, one of the reasons why the invisible web was indeed invisible was because search engines could only retrieve web pages that were in HTML format. Files that were not in this format, like PDF, MP3 and Excel, were excluded from the results. Search engines are already being improved to include more of a variety of formats in the search results.
Understanding what that the invisible web consists of and learning alternative methods for retrieving information can helpful for college level students researching information. This will allow students to be aware that the total of search results provide on the web is not a definitive portrayal of the information that exists in the world on the particular topic.
Anderson, B. (2008). Electronic roundup: invisible web. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 27, 65-68. doi: 10.1080/01639260802152899