Metadata are information about the website and not always used directly by the person accessing the site. They may be used by a computational agent, a computer or an application. Some metadata make it easy for users to search a site and hopefully also contribute to the ease with which sites are indexed by external, publically available, search engines. Australia is well served now with good facilities for the construction, storage and use of metadata.
A good example of the use of classification metadata is provided in the EdNA web pages. (The metadata is stored in the 'head' of the document and can be seen if the browser opens the source code.) An example of the use of RSACi ratings is shown in W3C pages.
Many research communities have specialised thesauri for classification of material. An attempt to develop a minimal set which will be useful across many disciplines and for a variety of forms of information has led to the Dublin Core set. We recommend that any serious web provider should at least develop DC metadata about their material. There are many arguments at a finer level about where that metadata is to be stored - on the webpage itself, in a database, publically or privately, etc.
Classification of material can also be helpful for those within constrained webworlds whose access has been limited in some way. We suggest you read the W3C material about this.
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Copyright Liddy Nevile 19 March 2001. This material may be copied if source is acknowledged.