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Long-term availability of bioinformatics web services

Web Service Study

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Document Long-term availability of bioinformatics web services
In a study of 927 web services found in the 7 NAR Web Server Issues published annually from 2003 to 2009, we checked the availability, usability and functionality of all services described. We find that an astonishing number of 90 percent of services are still reachable. However, not all adhere to the high quality standards that are nowadays required from NAR submissions. Surprisingly, the services published in 2003 clearly stand out from the following years in terms of availability. The requirements for publication of services in NAR have risen constantly, with services now having to provide the following information directly on their pages: contact information, example data, help texts and version information. The presence of this information, and service usability, has risen constantly from year to year. Based on these qualities, we created the TL-Score, which reflects the number of criteria fulfilled by a service. We then considered the number of times a service's NAR publication was cited. We can show that bad design choices correlate with a low number of citations: the ratio of citations for services with high usability vs. services with low usability shows that better services are cited 2.2 times more often. Given these findings, we can provide reviewers, editors, but most notably web service developers with guidelines that make the use of their service easier for everyone and simultaneously allow for time-saving maintenance of the service for the years after publication, hopefully leading to a higher number of citations.
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