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Search Engines

Elizabeth Van Couvering

Subject Communication Studies » Human Communication and Technology

Key-Topics information, technology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


A search engine is a computer program that allows the user to enter a series of keywords, usually called a “query,” and that responds with a list of results from a database that match the query. Major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo Search, and Microsoft Live Search, provide the most widely used method of finding information on the world wide web. Search engine websites are the most visited in the world, with estimates showing that in 2006 the Google and Yahoo websites reached approximately 80 percent of worldwide Internet users, or approximately 500 million people each month (→  Internet ; Exposure to the Internet ). As more and more information and entertainment becomes digital and is stored in databases, search engines are becoming increasingly important. The ability to effectively use a search engine is becoming widely recognized as a key skill of digital or information literacy. On the Internet, there is often a strong incentive for companies to place highly in search engine results, and search engine companies have become very powerful economic actors in online media. Research on search engines is not an integrated field and there are at least four different perspectives: first, information retrieval , where the search engine is studied as a complex programming problem; second, information literacy , where the interactions between search engines and user skills are ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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