Search engine

Updated: 06/02/2020 by Computer Hope
Illustration: Using a Search engine.

A search engine is software accessed on the Internet that searches a database of information according to the user's query. The engine provides a list of results that best match what the user is trying to find. Today, there are many different search engines available on the Internet, each with its own abilities and features. The first search engine ever developed is considered Archie, which was used to search for FTP files, and the first text-based search engine is considered Veronica. Currently, the most popular and well-known search engine is Google. Other popular search engines include AOL,, Baidu, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo.

How to access a search engine

For users, a search engine is accessed through a browser on their computer, smartphone, tablet, or another device. Today, most new browsers use an omnibox, which is a text box at the top of the browser. The omnibox allows users to type in a URL or a search query. You can also visit one of the major search engines' home page to perform a search.

How a search engine works

Because large search engines contain millions and sometimes billions of pages, many search engines display the results depending on their importance. This importance is commonly determined using various algorithms.

Visual search engine example

As illustrated, the source of all search engine data is collected using a spider or crawler that visits each page on the Internet and collects its information.

Once a page is crawled, the data contained in the page is processed and indexed. Often, this can involve the steps below.

  • Strip out stop words.
  • Record the remaining words on the page and the frequency they occur.
  • Record links to other pages.
  • Record information about any images, audio, and embedded media on the page.

The data collected is used to rank each page. These rankings then determine which pages to show in the search results and in what order.

Finally, once the data is processed, it's broken up into files, inserted into a database, or loaded into memory where it's accessed when a search is performed.

Do all search engines give the same results?

Not necessarily. Search engines use proprietary algorithms to index and correlate data, so every search engine has its own approach to finding what you're trying to find. Its results may be based on where you're located, what else you've searched for, and what results were preferred by other users searching for the same thing. Each search engine uniquely weights these and offers you different results.

What is the best search engine?

There isn't one search engine that is better than all the others. Many people could argue that Google's search engine is the best, and it is the most popular and well-known. It's so popular that people often use it as a verb when telling someone to search for their question.

Microsoft's Bing search engine is also popular and used by many people. Bing does an excellent job of finding information and answering questions. Bing is also what powers the search in Windows 10 and the Yahoo search engine.

Users concerned with privacy, enjoy using Duck Duck Go. This search engine makes its users anonymous and is an excellent solution for users concerned with how much information Google and Bing collect on its users.

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