Web search engines- Now you don't have to say what you mean
One huge way the web can affect prose is that you can "write" about topics that don't even appear in your document. This can be done through the manipulation of <META> tags. A writer can put any words within the <META> tags, even if those words never appear in the document. For example, if I were writing an article on say, The Doors, but mentioned no names but Jim Morrison in the article, I could enter "Ray Manzarek," "Robby Kreiger," or "John Densmore,"into the <META> tags, and anyone doing a search for one of those names could be directed to my article. <META> tags also allow an author to account for misspelled words entered into a search engine, to ensure that someone will find what he is looking for even if he doesn't know the exact spelling. If the subject of an article includes, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the <META> tag could include in it's "keywords" section "Arnold Shwarzenegger," "Ahnald Shwartzenager," etc., as well as lower-case letters at the beginning of names. Thus, web-based writing is changing prose to the point where words don't even have to be one-hundred percent accurate.
Let's say someone out there wants some information on my brother Well, obviously this article is in no way about him. But if someone might want to find anything he could on my brother, he could enter my brother's name into a search engine and this page will show up, because the <META> tag looks like this:
<meta name="KeyWords" content="Geoff Chow, geoff chow, Geoffrey Chow, Jeff Chow">
<META NAME="Author" CONTENT="Greg Chow">
Other search engine effects-
The Web has not only made writing more accessible and more alive, it's also made writing easier to find. With all writing, print and online, good writing and accessibility aren't going to be worth much if no one reads it. That's where the search engine comes in. It's the best source of free publicity a writer on the web can use. With search engines, the writer can affect both ends of the writing process. He can code his document while writing or after writing, which will make it more accessible, or more readily found, to the reader.
In order for a document to be found online, several factors must be addressed. First of all, different search engines search differently. Alta Vista has different search parameters than Infoseek or Excite. Writers can tailor their pages for specific engines, or can make them so they are found by all search engines.
Some search engines, such as Lycos and Excite, give relevance to the number of occurrences of a word within the first few hundred words. Other search engines, such as Alta Vista, give relevance as defined by <Title> tags that appear in the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) code. Infoseek gives weight to <META> tags in the HTML code. These are keywords and summaries that do not show up in the text of the document but reside in the unseen parts of the HTML. Each of these can be manipulated to ensure that a webpage is seen, without affecting the appearance or content of the page. In the case of Lycos, if I were writing about Jesse Ventura, I need only write "Jesse Ventura" at the top of the document 100 times. And you can "hide" these by altering the text color to match the background color.
Search engines also differ in terms of timeliness. Infoseek takes about two weeks to enter submissions into its database. If you wrote an article on breaking news, such as a plane crash, Infoseek would do you no good. Alta Vista, on the other hand, updates its database nightly, so a submission made at 9pm will probably be in the search database by morning. Also, there are devices such as Sitemeter, which can tell where a visitor to a website comes from, how he found the article. With that in mind, a writer could either blatantly advertise on that referring site, or change his page layout or <META> tags so that other search engines also find his work, increasing the accessibility of his work.
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