What Is a Search Engine?


Long gone are the days when all of your questions were answered by your dad or science teacher. Time is money in this fast paced modern world and anything which saves us time and hassle is welcomed. The World Wide Web has seen a boom in the last ten years as more and more websites have popped up and it has become quite impossible to find everything you want just by going to a particular page. The amount of information updated each minute is staggering and most of us wouldn’t even know where to start! This is where the internet search engines step in.

Basically an internet search engine can be defined as a group of commands which seek out information within a defined area and then show the results in a customized way, all the time working from the internet, through your browser. It allows you to quickly find what you require out of the billions of pages present on the internet. On the basis of relevancy, quality and other factors, a result list is generated and the user can then go through it to find the information he or she requires. There are other search engines like the ones present in the computers of libraries but they do not qualify as the ones under discussion here as they work offline and can only go through that database which is present on their systems. For example, the search option present in the start menu of Microsoft Windows can search only the connected drives on the network.

The search engine first explores the internet for new pages, images, videos etc since its last visit so that it can remain up to date and provide the latest and accurate results for any type of query. It also searches for updates and changes made to already existing pages. This is called “crawling”. The search engine or crawler cannot actually read the content or identify pictures. It indexes the pages and categorizes them on the basis of description, meta tags and keywords so that it can easily identify and rank them according to content quality and relevancy. Finally, the search engine then stores the results for quick displaying and also has the ability to show related pages that would interest the user. Another way used by the search engines to speed up their results is to store or cache the data on the computer of the user so it can easily see what the user would most likely want to see in the search results.

There are many popular search engines in use today but none have seen as much success and user loyalty as Google has. This claim is backed up by the fact that Google consistently has had over 70% market shares in the last 4 years! Using Google for searching the internet for any sort of information is commonly known as Googling (a play on Google and searching). Yahoo!, Bing and Ask are also used for searching the internet these days.

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