A web search engine is a tool that has been designed to locate information on the World Wide Web. Search engines provide the most comprehensive search experience in the Web for surfers as it finds and organizes the answers they need. This enables the netizens to make faster and more informed decision. The search results are usually presented in a list and termed as “hits”. The information that is thereafter forwarded can be categorized under web pages, images and information. Search engines operate algorithmically implying they are blending algorithmic and human inputs.
In November 1993 the Web’s first search engine, Aliweb was launched It depended on website administration notification for the existence of index file at individual sites. In December 1993, Jump Station was initiated that operated a web robot to locate the web pages and to build index. The resource based tool combined the three basic features associated with search engine: crawling, indexing and searching. The search engines in Internet operate by storing information. Normally the pages are retrieved by the web crawler that is a fully automatic web browser which follows every link on any site. The page content is analyzed for determining how they could be indexed in the database.
Other search engines like Magellan, Altavista and others appeared with the passage of time with Yahoo being the most popular. Those looking for information could browse the directory along with keyword based search. It was only around 2000 that Google search engine rose to limelight and through its innovative page rank achieved better results for its searchers. Google adhered to a minimalist interface but by 2002, Yahoo acquired Inktomi and Overture in 2003. Till 2004, Yahoo worked along with Google but soon after launched its own search engine which operated on the technologies of the combined acquisitions.
In the same year (2004) Microsoft powered by its web crawler (msnbot) began a transformation in the search technology by launching Bing in June 2009. This is Microsoft’s re-branded search engine. This was followed by two giant companies, Yahoo and Microsoft, finalizing a deal wherein Yahoo Search could avail of Microsoft Bing technology. Market surveys show that in the year 2008 Google held the premier slot world wide but by July 2009 Google lost traffic to Baidu (8.87% and Bing 3.17%). However, Yahoo and AOL market share also recorded a decline during the same phase. The US records show that Google holds 63.2% of market share (May 2009) while in China Baidu recorded 61.6% market share for web search (July 2009).
Though search engine is a program that ensures that the web surfers find information on specific keywords, it also submits a list of documents where the keywords could be located. The term “generically” also describes systems like Google, Altavista and others that allows the web users to search for documents on the World Wide Web. The search engines operate by sending a spider to collect as many documents as possible while with the help of another program called “indexer” it reads the documents and creates an index that is based on the keywords contained in the document. Each search engine uses a proprietary algorithm to create indices. The utility of search engine is dependent on the accuracy of the result it offers to the web surfers. However, the methodology used to gauge the result varies widely between engines and the methods also keep changing with time as the Internet is a dynamic platform where modern techniques keep on evolving.