Search engines have changed our lives:bringing opportunities and dangers

A new world opened by Search engines

Internet Access Here Sign
"Internet Access Here Sign" by Steve Rhode is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Search engine is a new technology that is developed in the 1990s and used to find information on the world wide web(Halavais, 2013). It opens a new era for people in the online world which allows them to find whatever they want by typing a few keywords in the search box. Nowadays, search engines have become an integral part of our daily lives. It influences how people think about the world and how they treat it and how they get knowledge and information from the world wide web.  Furthermore, as a meaningful new technology, search engines can not be analyses without being put into the large social contexts(Halavais, 2013). As a window for people gathering information, search engine is highly related to the world’s economics, society, culture, and so on. This article would introduce the search engine through several parts, which are how it influences the trend of people to communicate with each other, who has benefited from the changing of the trend and who has not, how it influences our lives.

Search engines are developed to control and manage the information explosion by the appearance of the world wide web and now became an unmigrated part of people’s daily lives(Halavais, 2013).  One of the greatest threats to the contemporary era is the excess of information(Noble, 2018) . With the advent of the Internet, people can freely publish and share information on the platform, which causes countless messy and meaningless information that floods the world. In this case, it is inevitable that a new technology can manage and retrieve information so as to optimize efficiency to the greatest extent. In the early days, the only way to transfer files between computers was through File Transfer Protocol (FTP). People will start searching from a server on the list, and finally, submit an application to the server and download it. Although this technology is still used by people, the process of finding a server is very troublesome. In this case, a system called Archie appeared. It can provide a list of FTP servers for retrieval, and this is the prototype of the earliest search engine, although its functions are not perfect(Halavais, 2013).

Library -- the original search engine
“Library — the original search engine” by Enokson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Soon after the first search engine appeared, other search engines began to appear accordingly. The functions of these search engines have become more and more perfect and have begun to bring order to the entire Internet. With the passage of time, the search engine function has been integrated into our lives and has become an inaccessible means of obtaining information on the Internet.

 

 

People who are benefited and who are not benefited from the changing trend could be seen from three parts, which are capital, the loss of concern for minorities, and equality. First of all, a business tech company, Google is benefited from this change. Due to the importance of the search engine, the market share of the search market should be highly focused. According to Halavais (2013), “The rise of the search engine coincided with the dot-com bubble, especially during the late 1990s, and large sums were invested in developing new and existing search engines…. ”For this reason, the censorship of the market is not scattered but highly concentrated.  In the Global search engine market, Google has occupied 92.71% percentage of this market which is quite high(Statcounter, 2020).

StatCounter-search_engine-ww-monthly-201909-202009

Because of Google’s high market share in the world, it has become the main channel for people to retrieve information on the Internet. Its monopoly position has brought it huge advertising revenue Its recommendation algorithm will determine what kind of information people will get. During this situation, as time goes by, the way people how to construct the view of the world would be unobtrusively influenced by the power of capital. Google’s ads delivered accurately through big data can be seen as a typical example. Google will collect every keyword entered by users and some other data, and integrate these data into a huge database(Jarrett, p,17). By analyzing user data, Google can analyze their preferences and deliver products that meet their preferences accurately. In other words, people’s ideas will be easily guided by the algorithm which is developed from user data. Its content and functions are sold to advertisers to generate most of the company’s revenue. Secondly, the interests of minorities will be harmed. According to Noble(2018), he thinks that sometimes the problems caused by search engines are not only caused by the algorithms of the platform, but also by the users themselves. He believes that search engine rankings in search results largely reflect the views of its major users. Because the opinions of most people will be listed in a higher priority and be seen by more people, and being seen by more people means that this view will have become more mainstream,which is like a cycle and made the mainstream opinions stronger and stronger led to the lack of attention to the concept of minority groups. Third, people in economically underdeveloped areas may be further widened the equality by search engines. Search engines can undoubtedly help people obtain information more conveniently. However, people in economically underdeveloped areas may not be able to enjoy this convenience because of the lack of Internet infrastructure and the expensive login facilities(such as a mobile phone).

 

Our lives have been changed a lot by the appearance of search engines. In daily life, search engines as an Internet information retrieval tool can be used as a substitute for many things, making our lives more convenient. For example, the search engine of the University of Sydney online library can largely replace offline libraries. Because of the Australian blockade caused by the impact of the new crown virus epidemic, many University of Sydney students can only choose to study online. In this case, it is impossible for them to go to the offline library to find the documents they need for learning, and they can only choose to use the search engine of the online library to search. After a whole online semester, it proved that such a choice is completely feasible.

USYD Camperdown
“USYD Camperdown” by thewebprincess is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

However, search engines would also cause some problems, such as confirmation bias(Sunstein, 2017). After the advent of search engines, people have a high degree of choice in the information. This means that people can choose to search for opinions that are similar to their own opinions rather than those that are contrary to their own opinions. As time goes, it definitely brings the risk of extreme ideas caused by the over selection of information.

 

To conclude, Search engines are an inevitable product of this era of information explosion. It brings convenience to people and provides an efficient way to obtain the information they need, which highly increases the convenience of people’s daily lives. But at the same time, it brings risks such as capital impact, bias, and inequality. There is no doubt that search engines have opened up a whole new world and completely changed our lives. In this new world, danger and opportunity coexist, It is unwise to ignore danger because of opportunity, or ignore the opportunity because of danger.

 

Bibliography

Halavais, A. (2013). Search engine society. Wiley.

 

Jarrett, K. (2014). A database of intention. In Society of the query reader: Reflections on web search (pp. 16–29). Amsterdam: Institute of networked cultures.

 

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

 

Sunstein, C. (2017). #Republic : Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media . Princeton University Press,. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400884711

 

Search Engine Market Share Worldwide | StatCounter Global Stats. (2020). Retrieved 1 November 2020, from https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share

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