Major search engines improve Sitemaps protocol

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft announced enhancements to the Sitemap protocol to improve the way search engine crawlers index Web site information

The rare collaboration between search rivals Google, Yahoo and Microsoft over site maps has yielded its first result.

On Wednesday, the vendors announced they have enhanced Sitemap, a protocol designed to simplify how webmasters and online publishers submit their sites' content for indexing in search engines.

Along with the improvements, the vendors also announced that IAC/InterActiveCorp's Ask.com will support the protocol, which thus gains backing from another major search engine operator. IBM also signed up to support the effort.

In November, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft agreed to support Sitemap, an open-source protocol based on XML (Extensible Markup Language.)

A site map is a file that webmasters and publishers put on their sites to help the search engines' automated Web crawlers properly index Web pages. The Sitemap protocol aims to provide a standard format for site maps, which should simplify their creation by Web publishers and their discovery and interpretation by search engines.

On Wednesday, the vendors announced that the Sitemap protocol, now in version 0.90, provides a uniform way of telling search index crawlers where site map files are located on a site.

All Web crawlers recognize the robots.txt instruction, which tells crawlers not to index certain information, so now webmasters can indicate the location of their site map file within robots.txt files. Meanwhile, the protocol's official Web site is now available in 18 languages.

More information about the enhancements can be found in official blog postings from Yahoo and from Google.

The Sitemap protocol was originally developed by Google and is offered under the terms of the Attribution-ShareAlike Creative Commons License.

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