SweoIG/TaskForces/Use Cases/SearchThresher

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Improving the reliability of Internet search results using Search Thresher

The Challenge with Search

Search results are not as reliable as they could be. They don’t provide any form of trust to help users make informed decisions before entering Web sites. Some users may not wish to wade through search results before discovering a site that ‘looks’ like it can be trusted, or until they stumble upon a site with a Trustmark .

Some users may only trust Web sites that have been vetted by an independent authority to guarantee that the information provided is trustworthy enough to rely on. For example, if you conducted a search on treatments for a particular illness, how would you know which Web sites to trust?

Until now, it hasn’t been possible to see from search results, which sites make conformance claims about suitability for mobile devices, disabled users or children. Furthermore, it hasn’t been possible to see which sites follow codes of conduct that cover concerns such as privacy statements, returns policy and online advertising.

Companies like Google and Yahoo! are battling it out to be the first to enable relevance and reliability on the Web. They’re failing in their fight to build user profiles that help them to deliver more meaningful search results. Users typically don’t perform the same search frequently ennough to build an accurate profile. For example, how often do you search for travel?

Many companies are attempting to provide users with trusted content. Netscape is making an attempt through its Security Centre, which was first introduced in Netscape 8.1. Mcafee is trying to provide trusted content with SiteAdviser and GeoTrust with Trustwatch. Then you have VeriSign who use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates for security to enable trust on e-commerce sites and for the identification of individuals to help battle against phishing.

The problem with all of these implementations is that they’re based on proprietary technologies that only those companies can make use of. They’re not even compatible with each other. Furthermore, most of the solutions aren’t even scalable. The Solution

Based on the principles of the Semantic Web, Content Labels are files that contain metadata that enable search engines and browsers to provide more information about trust in search results. Like the title and description tags of a Web page, Content Labels can be read and utilised by search engines and browsers to display more information about a Web site within search results.

“In its earliest days, W3C recognized a need to be able to describe content according to a defined vocabulary. This could be done for a variety of reasons including, but not limited to, child protection. The result was the PICS system which, despite early promise, has achieved limited support.” Content Labels will be proposed as a replacement of PICS now that it has made it onto a W3C Full Recommendation Track.

How To Demonstrate

Search Thresher is a Firefox extension that has been developed to empower users to search for Web sites based on trust. It has been developed by Segala, an Irish based Accessibility and Mobile Testing company with active involvement in several W3C working groups. They are also a sponsor of the Content Label working group responsible for developing the technology on which Search Thresher sits.

How it works

  • User searches for a keyword using Google
  • Before Google returns the results page, Search Thresher checks to see if any of the Web sites contain a Content Label link tag in addition to the title and description tags.
  <link rel="meta" xhref="http://www.segala.com/labels/tcuk_label_001.rdf" 
  type="application/rdf+xml" title="Segala label" />
  Content Link Tag
  • Pages that contain a link tag with Segala’s name space are highlighted with a green tick, all other link tags are highlighted with an amber tick. Sites that don’t contain a link tag are highlighted with a red box containing an X.

NB: Content Label Providers that independently verify assertions made for a particular standard or code of conduct in which they specialize, may wish to apply for a green tick to represent their conformance claims.

Each search annotation (icon beside each search result) is hyperlinked to a page, providing more information about the assertions, asserter, verifier (if applicable), data etc.

The Benefits…

For the end user

  • Users can find what they are looking for and trust what they find
  • Users will be warned if they are browsing to a site that has made fraudulent claims

For business

  • Sites using Content Labels will get highlighted in search results. Depending on the user settings they may be the ONLY results displayed
  • Demonstrate to the end user that they care about standards and codes of conduct