How do the Internet and Search Engines Work?

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How do the Internet and Search Engines Work?

The Internet is made up of a vast amount of computers networked throughout the world via data lines or wireless routers. New computers and websites are added every day, and no larger organizational system exists to document and catalogue them all. The Internet is a dynamic, growing and changing system, which makes navigating it or searching it thoroughly difficult.

This is where search engines and web directories come in. Search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, are large databases of information that store and retrieve relevant website results based on keywords. Web directories, such as the Open Directory Project, are attempts to organize the best of the existing websites into categories and subcategories. No search engine or web directory will have the same sites listed in the same order, and none will have all of the possible sites on the Internet listed. Furthermore, the ranking of a website within a search engine (i.e. how high up on the results list it appears) has as much to do with politics as it does with quality information. The search engine rankings are determined by a number of factors including the amount of information on the site, the amount of other sites that link to it, the amount of people who select that link when searching, the length of time that the site has been listed in the search engine database, and the code of the site.

Recently, search engines such as Google and Yahoo have also been providing "sponsored links"; links that appear on the first few pages of the search results and that are paid for by advertisers. This means that you may end up clicking on something that is not relevant to your search, but instead actually advertising. The image presented here gives you an example of this on Google.

Google Search Engine Results

What does this mean for a researcher? Understanding the nature of the Internet, how to navigate it, and how it is organized can help you filter out the quality information and websites from that which does not relate or is of questionable quality.

Other Pages in This Section :

  • Searching the World Wide Web : Overview : This section covers finding sources for your writing in the World Wide Web.

  • Kinds of Search Engines and Directories : Web directories (also known as indexes, web indexes or catalogues) are broken down into categories and sub-categories and are good for broad searches of established sites.

  • Searching with a Search Engine : A search engine is a device that sends out inquiries to sites on the web and catalogs any web site it encounters, without evaluating it.

  • Searching with a Web Directory : There are two main types of directories.

  • Search Engine and Web Directory List : The following is a list of some of the most powerful search and metasearch engines and most comprehensive web directories.

  • Resources to Search the Invisible Web : The Invisible Web includes many types of online resources that normally cannot be found using regular search engines.

  • Other Useful Sites for Finding Information : Other Useful Sites for Finding Information include all.

  • Other Strategies for Web Searching : Don't limit your Internet searching to using search engines. Be creative and think about which Internet sites might have the information you are looking for.

  • English Writing Resources Index

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