Commercial activity exists in search engines ? Who have benefit from it?

"Google Main Search" by MoneyBlogNewz is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Google Main Search" by MoneyBlogNewz is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Search engines become the important tool in our daily life. Do you know search engine as a technology have the commercial activity? Are you aware that the white people culture and the rich class benefit from it? This web essay will explain it.

Firstly, I introduce the history of search engine, and notice search engine producer and advertisers getting profits from search engine, then, I explain how commercial activity shape the development of search engine and how the rich class and the white people culture impact on search engine and gain benefit from it. Furthermore, I present how search engine help me to improve efficiency, and I found that the problem with search engines is that the results cannot be high accurate.


As a term, search engine is a software program. Search engine can be defined as“the process of searching information using the specified keywords.”( Tarakeswar& Kavitha,2011) Search engine can use algorithm to search and collect the information from database based on query word, and display the information which include the related key words.

The development of search engines and Commerical activity

In its early development, search engine used the directory listings to query information. Archie was the first tool used for search on the Internet, which was created by Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and J. Peter Deutsch, computer science students at McGill University in Montreal in 1990. Archie created a searchable database of file names by downloading a directory listing of all files located on a public anonymous FTP(File Transfer Protocol) site. Due to the limited amount of data, it can be easily searched manually, However, Archie did not index the content of these sites. (Seymour, Frantsvog, & Kumar,2011)

Search engine developer found the algorithm of full text search to query information. In 1994, the first search engine provided full text search, which came out, it is WebCrawler. Full text crawler-based search engine had ability to index every word of the query information entered by the user. The first engine known to the public is WebCrawler, and all major search engines after that were created with it as a standard. (Seymour, Frantsvog, & Kumar,2011) In the same year, the search engine named Lycos was created and came out based on WebCrawler. Lycos made a commercial attempt and succeeded, which leads many people found business opportunities in search engines. The business model used to fund its services was exploited by search engines. Thereby, more and more search engines came out and competed for popularity. (Shade O, Samuel O, Richmond U and Oludele,2012)

Chirita (2015) argues, search engine producers knew more content they achieve, more users they can attract, so more advertisements can be seen and clicked, thence, they can gain more profits. The producers of search engines want to earn revenue from advertisers, and advertisers also want to increase exposure through popular search engines. “Relevant result showing, sorting” process of search engine is the most crucial competitive element. (YalçÕn&Köse,2010)Therefore, The companies of search engine enhance competitiveness to attract the public by improving function and algorithm of search engine, which attract advertisers to work with them.

In 2000, in order to gain more benefits, the company not only made an innovation named PageRank obtain better search results, but also developed their iterative algorithm of search engine to ranked the web page and linked more content. (Shade O, Samuel O, Richmond U and Oludele,2012)This improvement made this search engine became the most popular one. This company is Google. The advertisement on the web page is the main method to earn profits for Google search engine. (Seymour, Frantsvog, & Kumar,2011) Their economy is two-way. Therefore, the commercial activity shaped the development of search engines.

The white culture and the rich class

Figure 2 Jonathan Cohn(2019) source from:

Search engines is beneficial for producers and advertisers, so who are also have benefit from it? The algorithm of search engine learns and mirrors from real-world data, so social biases as raw data in the real world will be reflected in the algorithm. (Barocas&Selbst,2016)In the world, racial discrimination is the common type of social discrimination, which can be described as unfair treatment of people based on race.(Coimbra,etc.,2020) Gulati-Partee(2014) argues, the white culture as the dominant culture in society impact on our media, and have benefit from media. Because the mainstream culture is the white culture in the real world, search engine chosen to cater to white culture for capturing more users. For instance, searching pictures of women on Google (Fig 2), most of images is white women in the top results, while among these pictures, there are only three images of Asian and black women.When users search this result, it will increase the awareness of racial discrimination against people of colour and strengthen the dominant position of white culture in their consciousness.

Storkey (2006) argues, search engine is commercial tools to gain more profits, it is inequity, which can reflect in search result. According to the research from the article of Procedia Computer Science, more than 80% internet users search information via search engines. Users are usually only interested in the top list of search results in a large amount of information. (Yang, Shi& Wang,2015) The rich class want to be richer and more powerful, and they know the most important and effective way of introduction and marketing is to be one of the top listing of the search engine. (YalçÕn&Köse,2010) The search results can be ranked by people who willing to pay. Therefore, the rich class willing to pay for the top site of search results,place content that benefits them.The top position in search results are easiest to see and recognized as most credible and popular results (Noble, 2018), the rich class increase the opportunity to be known to the public and strengthen the credibility among the public, thereby, strengthen their power and consolidate their social status. However, the poor class do not have fund to rank the content that benefit them. They can only passively accept search results arranged by the rich class.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Usage of search engines improve efficiency for my study. The target audience of search engines is people from all around the world. Furthermore, significant information about anything including articles, news, economic, history, products, to multimedia and more can be searched by search engines. (Shade O, Samuel O, Richmond U and Oludele,2012) Thus, I can use search engines to search information about my subjects wherever and whenever. Moreover, I just need to tap the keywords in search engine, the algorithm can help me seek and show most relevant and useful results quickly. I do not need to go to the library and read a lot of books to find relevant information. Therefore, search engine greatly improved my efficiency in searching information for my study.

The search results cannot be high accurate when I query information through search engine. Search engines are great for the task of finding the organization’s homepage, but their disadvantage is less accuracy, especially for searching broad or ambiguous information  (Carpineto,D’Amico&Bernardini,2011) When I search the whole question or not detailed and specific information, it cannot present the high accurate results. Furthermore, there are many results as interference in search results. Search engines have business activity, not neutral. When I use search engines, many results on the top lists are not objective, even discriminatory. In addition, there is too much advertising mixed in search results. Because most of advertisements place the top position, which make me have to click and check the content, and disturb my sight.


The development of search engine was shaped by producers and advertisers, because they think search engine is the mutually beneficial tool. Furthermore, the white culture and the rich social class as mainstream in the real world, and search engine mirror these situations, so the white people and the rich class influence the usage of search engine and have benefit from it. Students can enhance their efficiency for study by using search engines, but commercial activity and discrimination and unfairness lead to inaccurate in search results, disturb students to find accurate results.

Reference List

Carpineto, C., D’Amico, M., Bernardini, A., & Carpineto, C. (2011). Full discrimination of subtopics in search results with keyphrase-based clustering. Web Intelligence and Agent Systems9(4), 337–349.

Chirita, A. (2015). Google’s Anti-Competitive and Unfair Practices in Digital Leisure Markets [Ebook]. Durham University. Retrieved from

Cohn, J. (2019). Google’s algorithms discriminate against women and people of colour [Image]. Retrieved from

Coimbra, B., Carvalho, C., Ota, V., Vieira-Fonseca, T., Bugiga, A., Mello, A., Mello, M., & Belangero, S. (2020). A systematic review on the effects of social discrimination on telomere length. Psychoneuroendocrinology120, 104766.

Gao, R., & Shah, C. (2020). Toward creating a fairer ranking in search engine results. Information Processing & Management57(1).

Gulati-Partee, G., & Potapchuk, M. (2014). Paying attention to white culture and privilege: a missing link to advancing racial equity.(TOOLS)(Report). The Foundation Review6(1), 25–38.

Noble, Safiya U. (2018) A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York: New York University. pp. 15-63

Seymour, T., Frantsvog, D., & Kumar, S. (2011). History Of Search Engines. International Journal of Management and Information Systems15(4), 47–58.

Shade O, K., Samuel O, O., Richmond U, K., & Oludele, A. (2012). Trends in Web-Based Search Engine [Ebook]. Nigeria: Babcock University. Retrieved from

Storkey, D. (2006). Search engines’ bias. New Scientist (1971)191(2569), 22–23.

Tarakeswar, K., & Kavitha, D. (2011). Search Engines:A Study Journal of Computer Applications (JCA) [Ebook]. Retrieved from

Yalçın, N., & Köse, U. (2010). What is search engine optimization: SEO? [Ebook] (pp. 487-493). Retrieved from

Yang, Z., Shi, Y., & Wang, B. (2020). Search Engine Marketing, Financing Ability and Firm Performance in E-commerce. In Procedia Computer Science (pp. 1106-1112). Retrieved from


Yaxuan Wang
About Yaxuan Wang 3 Articles
I'm a USYD student.I'm studying ARIN2610 in Digital Culture.