Search Engine —- the mirrors of digital culture

                                                                                    Image: WildStoneSolution

Search engine is a program that searches websites on the Internet based on keywords entered by users. Search engines as one of the most important innovation technological of internet, it has became a part of modern communications media. But search engines is not a simple technological invention, it more like a product based on the media culture, which is mirrors the modern digital media culture. The invention of search engines has made it easier to search content on the World Wide Web. Search engines was been invented for concentrate the attention of the public in the huge of wave of online information, it solved the most difficult problem brought to us by digital culture, which is information processing. This article will introduce the origin of search engines, how it becomes the part of communication media and the inevitability of this phenomenon. Besides that, we will also explore how Google dominates the search industry, even almost reached a monopoly industry. Based on the study of sources, development and social background, we will further explore the impact and changes of search engines on the entire society, including economics and culture.

Before the advent of search engines, the librarians are considered omnipotent. People frequently asked the local public library for seeking the answer when they were curious about something. The New York Public Library stumbled upon some post-it notes that recorded questions people asked librarians before the advent of search engines. However, As we enter the information age, the omnipotent librarian cannot find the correct and reasonable answer in a short time, which means that they cannot concentrate quickly in the huge information database. The relationship of limited attention ability and enormous information has been highly valued. According to Herbert Simon (1971), the phenomenon of information is grandly becoming apparent, which deplete a lot of user attention. Enormous information caused unable to concentrate and inability to effectively distribute attention among many information sources. Hence, the fundamental solution to this problem lies in build a mechanism for selecting among complex and large amounts of information, which is search engine. This is why the emergence and development of search engines is inevitable. People view the history of search engines as 1990, beginning with Archie, an FTP site hosting an index of downloadable directory listings. Actually, the idea of search engines first appeared in 1945, Vannevar Bush (1945) proposed that scientists need to devise a method to enable people to manipulate and extract content from records so that knowledge can be more easily accessed. Search engines have become part of the entire media ecosystem. Until now, after decades of development, search engines have undoubtedly become part of historical trends of the entire media ecosystem, especially in digital media.


According to the New York Public Library.


With the mature development of search engine technology, more and more online search engine websites appear such as Google, Yahoo, Baidu. Among many search engines, Google’s unique and constantly improving algorithm makes it undoubtedly the most popular search engine today. Google ranks pages based on citations and also begins to evaluate websites through authority. The authority or trustworthiness of a website depends on the number of other websites that link to the website and the reliability of externally linked websites. These have greatly increased the public’s credibility. Since Google was formally established in 1998, the global search engine market has been in an extremely unbalanced state. As of July 2020, Google has occupied 88.66% of the global market. As one of the first companies to develop a search engine, the economic impact of Google in its region cannot be easily ignored. In 2019, Google search, Google Play, YouTube and Google advertising tools provided 1.4 million businesses and non-profit organizations with $385 billion in economic activity (Google Economic Impact, 2019). In China, although the country’s Internet penetration rate is growing rapidly, it is still lower than that of Western countries (CINNC, 2011). The Chinese search engine giant, Baidu, had total revenue of US$3.69 billion in the second quarter of 2020. There is no doubt that the western countries such as United States and United Kingdom, as the first country to develop and reform search engine technology, has benefited far more economically than other countries or regions.

Search Market Share of major search engine

According to the Worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to July 2020.

On the other hand, as Internet search engines increasingly become the first choice for people who want to find information. Search engines have brought a huge impact on global cultural, and can even be used as query tools for social sciences. This phenomenon reflects and embodies users generally show a high degree of trust in the capabilities of search engines to provide them with correct answers to questions. As Hargittai (2007) pointed out, most research on search engines has focused on technology and its potential impact, without considering the social background or users who rely on search engines. According to Rieger (2008), both teachers and students prefer search engines instead of other resources to support their academic work since this greatly facilitates their work or study. Although the Internet has made it more effective for researchers to communicate and share research ideas, the rapid development and other characteristics have also brought information overload and other challenges faced when analyzing and improving search results. Researching and processing information seems more difficult than scarce resources when there is a lot of information since it involves searching, filtering, reviewing, extracting and other steps. This means that we need to improve students’ information processing capabilities and screening capabilities. In general, the benefits of search engines to students and teachers in education are obvious.


To sum up, as a major technology of Internet innovation, search engine’s origin is not accidental. As this article said, search engines have brought a huge impact on the economy and culture of the entire society. Especially the Western countries that first developed and introduced this technology, their benefits are incomparable to other developing countries. At the same time, search engines also have many drawbacks, such as discrimination. As search engines increasingly replace the role of libraries in promoting information discovery and access, he has also played an important role in teaching and research. Students seek answers to questions through search engines quickly and the immediate availability of information provided by search engines can have a positive impact on student’s learning process. However, at the same time, students need to re-develop critical thinking skills to improve their ability to assess information accuracy and to extract effective answers from a wide range of information. In conclusion, this article believes that search engines are the product of a specific economy and society, and analyzes the current role of search engines in the entire society.



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