The Internet is full of millions of websites having billions of pages. These web pages have text, audio, photographic and video content. New online content is being generated by users every second of every single day. To maintain a record of this content will be difficult for everyone. Worse yet would be finding something particular from this data. Since every user may need to search for different data and every user cannot maintain a separate repository of information, there exist such centralised websites which track the content present on oher websites and allow users to search for specific data amongst the total data. Such a website is better known as a search engine.
There are many such search engines which exist and each one either has a different search algorithm or searches for different kind of data. The famous ones include Google and DuckDuckGo amongst others. The way they work is that they have a program known as a “spider” or “crawler” which visits (or crawls) various websites and indexes the data on those pages using an algorithm. A crawler may or may not visit all the pages on a website. So when a user searches for a particular keyword or keywords, the search engines searches its index and presents the results to the user. Some search engines may present the user with options for narrowing down or filtering the search results – e.g. how old the content should be, whether the content should be posted from a particular geographical location, whether the content should have attached image/audio/video content, etc
A mention must be made of Google search engine here that even though it was launched in 1997, it became famous around the year 2000 when it started giving better results. Currently it is the #1 search engine in the world and dominates the field of search engines. The Google search engine ranked web pages on the idea that if a website’s link was shared in more and more websites, it was more important. Thus, such websites appeared higher in search results.
One of the aspect of using search engines like Google is that:
- They may store user’s personal search history to present relevant content through other products of the same company (e.g. what you search on Google may be used to show targeted ads.)
- They may show ads to you along with your search results. These ads will usually be related to the keywords you searched for.
- They may track you in private browsing mode also by advanced algorithms.
- All your search history and the associated data mined may be sold to third-parties.
- They may personalise your search results based on your history. This means that the results you get will not be unbiased. Two different persons searching for same thing may get different results.
This is where privacy friendly search engines like DuckDuckGo come in. They avoid the above aspects and present the user with unbiased data without tracking them. Although the search results may not be 100% similar to the ones given by Google, but they are definitely giving really comparative results and making constant improvements also.
For Wikipedia entry on Search Engines, click here.
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