Search engines are enormous databases created and maintained by “robots” or “spiders” continually browsing WWW pages and indexing the words used in those pages. Web pages are included in these search engines in two ways – the creator or owner of the page can submit the URL, or the “spider” will find the page by following a link from another page.
Early search engines like Altavista and Hotbot (remember them?) changed the way we found things on the internet. There were two levels of searching: Simple and Advanced. The Advanced Query allows Boolean logic and features like Results Ranking, search by location and date indexed, which can be very useful in refining your search. Searching was a skill.
Soon these search engines started to look for ways to make money. Search results were crowded out with advertising and banners.
Then Google came along and wiped the old search engines out. It was clean, fast and easy. Google encouraged us to become less skilled at searching and to only look at the first page of 10 results. Like the previous generations of search engines, the result pages are being over taken with ads above and around the actual search results. Those 10 search results on the front page of Google are often just 3 or 4 at the bottom of all the advertisements.
Unlike the old search engines, Google also builds profiles on everything you search for and which results you click on. By providing “free” analytics software, Google can follow you on most websites and add that data to your profile too. (We do not have Google tracking on this site.) Google deals up different results for each person based on their profile and search history. This means that results are narrower, creating what is called the filter bubble. The TED talk below explains how this works and some of the repercussions.
If you yearn for the standard search engine with open results, and without the tracking and profiling, try duckduckgo, the search engine that we’ve used for our site search.
Points to remember when using all search engines are:
- if no one submits a web page and it isn’t linked to by another page, that web page will not be included in that database
- every different search engine has a different database so gives different results
- pages which change frequently will often have changed since the page was indexed
- many search engines only index the top part of a web page
- the author of the page may not have thought to use the same words that you use to search e.g. many Adelaide sites do not have the word Adelaide
- text only (not images) is indexed
- some WWW authors include spurious keywords or content to get their pages near the top
- an increasing number of search engines include paid links at the top of the search results