Search engines- a critical analysis of its past and present.


An important internet innovation that almost every internet user would use every day is search engines. It completely improves people’s internet using experience since the age that it was invented. This essay would mainly use Google and Baidu as an example, focus on the genesis of the search engine. Analysis how it becomes a part of historical trends of communication and information regulation, and who is the key business controller. Finally, gives it a critical analysis of who benefits from the search engine business, who does not.

A critical account of its genesis. How is it part of historical trends in communications media or information management

The ancestor of the search engine is Archie^ (1990) created by Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and J. Peter Deutsch. (Seymour, Frantsvog and Kumar 2011) These 3 computer science students developed this tool to search for information in a data base, but at that period that technology was not used on the whole internet. It was just applied to one site.

In the middle to the end of the 1990s, the reason why search engines came to power is because: people started to need assistance to help them find information from increasing number of sites. At that age, the search engine was firstly applied on the whole internet. The most popular search engine in the middle of the 1990s was AltaVista (1995) and Yahoo (1995). Afterward, Google comes out in 1998 and eventually came to power. (Seymour, Frantsvog and Kumar 2011)


To analysis the information management of the search engine, internet regulation is an important topic to talk about. Different search engines have different focus points on what content should they regulate base on some of the historical reasons. For instance: Google mainly regulates on user data protection. Because nowadays Google uses user’s data to “testing algorithms, improving user experiences and ensuring the accuracy of its ad forecasting system” (Slefo 2018). Which means Google needs to use their user’s data in order to successfully retain these users, and create commercial values for the company. To analysis this situation historically, the reason why Google become successful in the late 1990s is that they have a patented algorithm, called PageRank. (Seymour, Frantsvog and Kumar 2011) It actually means Google gives every page a ranking, and uses their user’s data to analyze: what will be the contents that their users want to get? Google’s PageRank system today still “assumes that if one website refers to the other, expresses the importance of its” (Vokorokos 2011). That means Google’s algorithm today can still all be seen as an expansion of their previous PageRank algorithm, they have been using this system for 22 years. That is the reason why since the age of Google rises, how to regulate user’s data, and avoiding potential law issues was a serious topic for Google to pay attention on.

The focus point of search engine information management was completely different in China (the world’s second-largest economy zone). Due to its political system and ideology towards internet regulation, China has its own different internet environment and culture. To analysis why it becomes a part of historical trends in information management, in China, the government would put pressure on search engine regulation, especially for political contents. The reason will be introduced and analyzed in the second part, and the third part as well of this essay.

Who owns and controls the key business in this field?

It also depends on the circumstance of different internet environments. For international search engines, Google was in a dominant position in controlling the search business in 2008, even in Google’s growing age. “Google’s search market share was 58.4%, while Yahoo holds 22.9% and Microsoft 9.8%” (Network World 2008) Google owns almost double times of percentage that total market share of other search engines have, and was the absolute “key business controller”.

On the Chinese internet, Baidu is the biggest key business owner of the search engine in China. Google was actually on the ‘blacklist’ of sites of the Chinese government which means it was completely blocked by the government, because it does not meet the standard of government censorship (Dong 2012). That makes Google lose most of its Chinese market, and its place was replaced by Baidu. After it recovers from the global financial crisis, Baidu still owns 65.7 percent of the Chinese search market share in December 2012 (China Business News 2013). Baidu meets the standard of censorship of the Chinese government, by focuses on regulates political information.

Who benefits from its transformative effects in political economic, social and/or cultural terms?

It is obvious that the owner of the business would benefit from the transformative effect. Search engine, creates huge commercial value for its business owner. To use Google as an example, Google’s search engine not only spreads information towards the entire world, but also maximize the ROI of their advertising spread, and drive repeat purchases from its users. (Tonkin, Whitmore and Cutroni 2010) In this process commercial value was shared by Google and their advertiser, the function of the search engine shifted to a tool that makes financial income for its owner, rather than acting like a searching tool.

Also, to analyze critically. The case in China is: the government also benefits from the transformative effect caused by Baidu. Baidu sometimes can be seen as a political or cultural propaganda tool, and helps to maintain the social stability for the government. Political sensitive topics or historical events were almost forbidden from Baidu. For example: information about the June 4th incident (Tiananmen Square Protest) is almost could not be found on Baidu.

(Figures: search result of the team: Tiananmen on Google and Baidu, October 30th, 2020. The search result of Baidu did not show any pictures related to the June 4th incident, while the search result of Google shows a lot.)

The Tiananmen Square incident was definitely a historical incident that would have a negative effect on the Chinese government. Baidu’s elaborate regulation not only avoids users to search it and discuss it, but also avoids them to use alternative words to bypass the censorship. Terms like 6-4, 64, 63+1, 65-1, May 35th, April 65th were all banned on Baidu. (Malcolm Moore Beijing 2014) That phenomenon reflects how much attention Baidu has paid to political information management, they are actually learning from their users, about how to pass over censorships, and keep managing information about alternative words. In order to achieve their political goals. Baidu helps the government to reduce negative political effects caused by historical incidents. Stabilized internet culture and society.

Who does not?

In terms of social science, certain social groups, such as black people and females, would receive negative affect from the PageRank algorithm. To use Google as an example: in his study, Noble points out that social groups like females and people of color often need to fight with Google. They were actually suffering from Google’s hegemonic frameworks and notions. (Noble 2018) That means the PageRank algorithm was sometimes more like a ruthless system that would automatically suggest racist contents towards their users, simply because other users would like to search racist terms on Google. Also, consider out the searching function of Google, problems that exist on other sites will easily affect Google’s function. Nowadays “300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute” (Reslan 2020). Those information could be easily found on Google, and it is almost impossible for Google to regulate them all, even though Google tried to decode the coded language of hate speech. So, Google’s PageRank system and its original function help to spread hate speeches, and might build stereotypes in the society, in the effects of social science.


(Recommended video: Facebook, Twitter And Google Answer Questions On Hate Speech | NBC News Now)



Overall, the genesis of the search engine is Archie^, and the concept and market of search engines rise in the middle to the end of the 1990s. The search engine becomes a part of historical trends of communication because the user’s internet usage requirement. Also, it becomes a part of the trends of information regulation because of political reasons and data collection. The key business owner is Google and Baidu compony. Their owner and advertisers would benefit from the search engine business, while minority groups like black people and females were suffering from it. These groups of people, were putted in a position of disadvantage, in terms of social science.



Seymour, T., Frantsvog, D., & Kumar, S. (2011). History of search engines. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 15(4), 47-58. Retrieved from

Slefo, G. (2018). GOOGLE AND GDPR FORCE A HARD CHOICE; Publishers must share data with Google to use its ad platforms.(general data protection regulation). AdAge, 89(10).

Vokorokos, L. (2011). Web Search Engine. Acta Electrotechnica et Informatica, 11(4), 41–45.

Dong, F. (2012). Controlling the internet in China: The real story. Convergence, 18(4), 403–425.

Malcolm Moore Beijing. (2014, May 18). Tiananmen Massacre 25th anniversary: the silencing campaign; Communist party redoubles efforts to silence any mention of Tiananmen Square in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the bloody suppression of the student protests.(NEWS). The Telegraph Online.

Microsoft/Yahoo merger won’t dethrone Google; Google market share nearly double that of Microsoft and Yahoo combined. (2008). Network World.

Tonkin, S., Whitmore, C., & Cutroni, J. (2010). Performance marketing with Google Analytics strategies and techniques for maximizing online ROI . Wiley Pub., Inc.

Baidu maintains its role as china’s largest search engine with market share increasing to 65.7% in december 2012. (2013, Jan 21). China Business News Retrieved from

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

ISBN: 9781479837243

Reslan, Z. (2020). 63.3 GOOGLE’S EVOLVING APPROACHES TO COUNTERING HATE SPEECH. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry59(10), S96–S96. (Source: NBS News Facebook, Twitter And Google Answer Questions On Hate Speech | NBC News Now, from September 19th, 2019, standard YouTube Licence)


(Submitted on 1st Nov 2020, 2 days extension granted by Ms. Harriet Flitcroft)

Tianjian Xu
About Tianjian Xu 3 Articles
Hi This is Chris Tianjian Xu, Im in my second year. Doing digital cultures (as my major) and film studies. The reason why I enrolled in this unit of study is because I would like to develop more about my critical thinking skills, it helps me to view the world from multiple different aspects.