Into Search Engines

Cartoon feature of Search
Cartoon image of Search from Google. All Rights Reserved.

With the change of times, Internet technology will only become more sophisticated and mature. With this comes richer methods of communication and an ever more bewildering amount of information. At this time, how to accurately classify, structure, index, store, analyse, filter and retrieve information has become a difficult problem that must be overcome. The purpose of innovation is to solve one problem after another. Search engine, one of the Internet innovations is designed to help people find information more quickly. As the main mean to query information, search engine is widely used by people to retrieve the key information they care about (Seymour & Frantsvog & Kumar, 2011). Both Google and yahoo are common large-scale search engines in the world. China’s Baidu is also rising rapidly. The main purpose of this essay is to delve into the origins of search engines, their development in the history of information, controllers and dominators in their field, and the political, economic, cultural and social benefits they bring. More importantly, by reading this essay, readers should realize that the purpose we use search engines is to enhance our ability to obtain and use information. We should maximize the use of search engines and get the most benefits with the least effort (Havalais, 2008).

Screenshot from Google homepageScreenshot from Google homepage
Screenshot from Yahoo homepageScreenshot from Yahoo homepage


Screenshot from Baidu homepageScreenshot from Baidu homepage
(The top right of the figure is the search type, followed by news, a collection URL, map, video, academic and more. Below the middle is the hot search list of the day,1. Yuan Longping team double-season rice mu yield more than 1,500kg 2. The new version of the RMB 5 note is about to be released 3. The coronavirus can survive for 3 weeks under cold chain conditions 4. Xiao Zhan topped the list of 2020 Asia Pacific’s most handsome face 5. Entry from China to Japan no longer need nucleic acid testing 6 The former president of South Korea was jailed today).


The Definition of Search Engines

“Search engine is a retrieval technology that retrieves information from the Internet and feeds back to users according to user needs and certain algorithms” (Long, 2019). Liu Feng, a PhD in computer science and technology, wrote in Zhihu that search engines are systems that use specific computer programs to collect information from the Internet and then display it to users. There are three main working links. First, each individual search engine’s spider continuously crawls web pages with hyperlinks. Second, extract keywords from a large number of crawled web pages. Third, the user enters keywords for retrieval and then matches them in the database.

Screenshot form Dr. Liu’s idea in ZhihuScreenshot form Dr. Liu’s idea in Zhihu


The Origins of Search Engines

The history of search engines begins in 1990 with the advent of Archie, an FTP site that hosts an index of downloadable directory lists. Search engines remain the original list of directories until they are developed to be able to crawl and index websites before they are finally optimized (WordStream, 2020).

Youtube video: Origins of Search Engines.


How did search engines become part of a historical trend in communication media and information management?

Search engines have gradually stood firm in the history of communication media and information management through three major steps. The first step is scaling up. To keep up with the rapid growth of the Web, between 1994 and 2000 the World Wide Web worm went from indexing just 110, 000 pages a day to the top search engines can handle hundreds of millions of queries a day (Brin & Page, 1998). By 2020, the number has multiplied by countless times. Search results of any single query are in the hundreds of millions.

Screenshot from googling Australia.Screenshot from googling Australia


After expanding quantity, the next step is improving quality. In order to save users’ time and avoid the trouble of garbage results, search engines have adopted very high precision tools at great cost to improve the speed and accuracy of search results (Brin & Page, 1998). This move, which continues to be perfected to this day, has led users around the world to become more and more addicted to search engines, and continues to attract increasing number of customers, establishing search engines’ place in the history of information management.


The third step is to improve and develop more system functions. A single feature is always unable to meet the growing needs of users around the world. In order to achieve long-term development, search engines have to develop more new features or cooperate with other companies. Take the search engine leader and dominator Google as an example. It has developed PageRank function and Google Scholar branch successively. The move will help Google manage large-scale web data more efficiently, and help spread information, including academic resources, more widely through more appropriate routes.


Who benefits from search engines? Who doesn’t?

In terms of beneficiaries and victims in search engines, politically and socially, feminist issues are worth mentioning. On 21 October 2013, the United Nations launched a campaign to draw attention to discrimination against women (Noble, 2018). Google search is the main tool for this campaign. Google’s search results for women are shockingly negative, with women being totally unfairly treated from life to work, from political power to religion. More specific examples are:

“1. Women cannot: drive, be a bishop, be trusted, speak in church

2. Women shouldn’t: Have the right, vote, work

3.Women should: stay at home, be slaves, and stay in the kitchen” (Noble, 2018).

The activity shows that search is a mirror of user belief, the problem is not in the search engine itself, but in the search engine users themselves (Noble, 2018). This makes one think in horror. All the results are obviously not made up out of thin air but the society, where still holds various sexist views towards women. Even more disconcertingly, search results from seven years ago have not changed much after a few years. In normal ethics, women are the absolute victims of this phenomenon, and the beneficiaries are the opposite men. However, the severity of the effects of the same phenomenon in different populations will generally vary. To be more specific, the search engine’s results will vary according to region, for example, in more liberal places like Europe and the United States, the results of the search engine in the discrimination against women may reduce, and in more traditional places like southeast Asia, India and the African countries, the result of discrimination against women could be worse.


From the economic level, search engines mainly aggregate wealth through advertising (Havalais, 2008). The creators and managers of search engines and the merchants who choose to cooperate with the search engine platform are the biggest beneficiaries. Advertisers can precisely target their target audience through queries that consumers enter into search engines. Meanwhile, monopolistic search engines can also generate high advertising revenues (de Cornière, 2016). And whether the rights and interests of users are violated by this kind of behavior needs to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. If the content of the advertisement is exactly what the user needs, then they benefit from it. The opposite is to be exploited by capitalism. To make a huge profit, search engines are likely to provide poor quality sponsored links, charging advertisers every time a user clicks on a link (whether intentionally or not) (de Cornière , 2016). Most users are usually impatient to be inundated with ads.


In conclusion, search engine, a revolutionary innovation of the Internet, has brought far more benefits than disadvantages to the development of the global society, politics, economy and even mankind as a whole. It provides a better platform for promoting goods around the world. It also provides an opportunity for different groups to get to know each other better and promote communication. Personally, in terms of learning, search engines can not only enable me to find the academic resources I need more quickly and accurately, but also provide me with more choices. However, I need to screen out which resources have real academic authority and cite them correctly. In terms of work, search engines can effectively help me solve common problems, such as a certain skill of Excel or the interpretation of a certain professional term. This reduces the number of times I bother my colleagues and improves my working ability. In the aspect of life, search engine is more I cannot leave. It can solve my problem anytime and anywhere, for example, when my pet dog vomits, I will search for the reason and solve it. It can also satisfy my curiosity anytime and anywhere, such as who designed the Barbie doll. Similar with me, I believe that many people have benefited a lot from search engines as well. The emergence of this kind of Internet innovation is of great significance.



Reference List

Brin, S., Page, L. (1998). The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Computer Networks. vol. 30 (1998), pp. 107-117.

de Cornière, A. (2016). Search advertising. American Economic Journal.Microeconomics, 8(3), pp. 156-188. doi:

Havalais, A. (2008). Search Engine Society, Cambridge: Polity Press.

KnowledgeHut. (2018). Origins of Search Engine.

Long, J. (2019). On the Characteristics and Development Trend of Search Engine. Computer Knowledge and Technology. 15(1), pp. 200-201.

Noble, S. U. (2018). A society, searching. In Algorithms of Oppression: How search engines reinforce racism. New York University. pp. 15–63. ISBN: 9781479837243

Seymour, T., Frantsvog, D., & Kumar, S. (2011). History Of Search Engines. International Journal of Management & Information Systems (IJMIS), 15(4), pp. 47-58.

Sullivan, D. (2007). What Is Google PageRank? A Guide For Searchers & Webmasters. Search Engine Land.

Vine, R. (2006). Google Scholar. J Med Libr Assoc. 94(1). pp. 97–99.

WordStream. (2020). THE HISTORY OF SEARCH ENGINES. Retrieved from,creating%20algorithms%20to%20optimize%20relevancy.



About Jieqin Deng 4 Articles
I am a sophomore at the University of Sydney. I major in digital cultures.