What about the substance of the text in web pages? The democratization of content creation on the web meant a new level of granularity in opinion on virtually any subject. This meant that the web contained truth, lies, contradictions and suppositions on a grand scale. This gives rise to the question: which web pages does one trust? In a simplistic approach, one might argue that some publishers are trustworthy and others not - begging the question of how a search engine is to assign such a measure of trust to each website or web page. In Chapter 21 we will examine approaches to understanding this question. More subtly, there may be no universal, user-independent notion of trust; a web page whose contents are trustworthy to one user may not be so to another. In traditional (non-web) publishing this is not an issue: users self-select sources they find trustworthy. Thus one reader may find the reporting of The New York Times to be reliable, while another may prefer The Wall Street Journal. But when a search engine is the only viable means for a user to become aware of (let alone select) most content, this challenge becomes significant.
While the question ``how big is the Web?'' has no easy answer (see Section 19.5 ), the question ``how many web pages are in a search engine's index'' is more precise, although, even this question has issues. By the end of 1995, Altavista reported that it had crawled and indexed approximately 30 million static web pages . Static web pages are those whose content does not vary from one request for that page to the next. For this purpose, a professor who manually updates his home page every week is considered to have a static web page, but an airport's flight status page is considered to be dynamic. Dynamic pages are typically mechanically generated by an application server in response to a query to a database, as show in Figure 19.1 . One sign of such a page is that the URL has the character "?" in it. Since the number of static web pages was believed to be doubling every few months in 1995, early web search engines such as Altavista had to constantly add hardware and bandwidth for crawling and indexing web pages.