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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Web enjoys year of biggest growth
Computer users
The number of people going online is on the rise
The web has grown more in 2005 than it did at the height of the dotcom boom, says a study.

In the year to October the web grew by more than 17 million sites, says monitoring firm Netcraft.

This figure exceeds the growth of 16 million sites seen in 2000 when net fever reached its most intense pitch.

Netcraft said the rise was caused by small businesses going online, firms making the most of web advertising schemes and spammers.

Growing pains

In its October 2005 survey, Netcraft found 74.4 million web addresses, a rise of more than 2.68 million from the September figure.

This jump of just under three million took the total growth in sites for 2005 past the previous record of 16 million seen five years ago.

Domains have become the base for anything else folks want to do on the web
Rich Miller, Netcraft
By way of comparison Netcraft's monthly survey celebrated its tenth anniversary in August 2005. The first survey it ran, in the year that Amazon launched, found only 18,957 sites. Five years later the figure was 19.8 million.

For Netcraft, a site is essentially a newly registered domain or net address, said Rich Miller, an analyst at the net monitoring firm.

However, this count is complicated by the fact that the web allows many different sites, sometimes thousands, to hang off the same net address.

Also many registrars who sell net names use unsold domains as holding pages to attract new trade. These pages may never be updated but do have a small amount of web content on them.

As a result there can be a big difference between the total count of sites and so-called "active sites" that are regularly updated.

In the past it has been estimated that up to 60% of all the sites counted by Netcraft were not actively updated.

Despite this, Mr Miller believes that much of the recent growth is genuine and marks the appearance of proper, active sites.

In particular, he said, the last few months have seen small businesses going online in the manner many expected them to do five years ago. Part of this has been driven by new tools and services which make it easy and cheap to launch a web business.

"A website is now seen as indispensable for small businesses," he told the BBC News website.

"Domains have become the base for anything else folks want to do on the web," he said. "That's your brand."

Blogs and spammers

Growth also comes from the rise in blogging, in which users write regularly updated web journals on any and every topic.

Screengrab of Blogger homepage, Google
Blogging has helped drive the growth in sites
Some blog sites host the journals on their own domain but many bloggers have taken the step of setting up their own site and installing blogging software on that.

Growth has also come from registrars making better use of unused domains by using them to exploit the advertising systems operated by Google and Yahoo.

Furthermore, said Mr Miller, there has been significant growth in firms that buy up domains that are no longer in use but still have significant web traffic associated with them. These can be used to exploit web advertising schemes.

Finally many spammers are setting up many domains that try to push their products to the top of search rankings. Mr Miller said many spammers ran sophisticated operations that automated website creation to push products.

"There's a lot of innovative projects going on out there and very clearly folks are making money now rather than just buying Superbowl commercials," he said.

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