The search engine: the only method to find your way around the World Wide Web and, ideally, to really end up at the place you had in mind. Search engines are not only the sign posts you need to find your way in an impenetrable and, what is more, incomprehensible data jungle; they also serve as pilots, doors, and sometimes traffic lights. Without the help of search engines, all information would be a word-of-mouth type of propaganda, and nothing new could be discovered. The early ones were more of an underground project; only with the wider spread of information as a tool, has the search engine was able to establish and position itself as economically relevant. Thus, the original “underground” tool became a generally valid portal, the www, the original search engine first turned into dozens, then hundreds of different search engines of various levels of performance and quality. The odd server that was put up in some backyard turned into whole server centres, one-man or two-man projects turned into gigantic projects that employ a multitude of programmers, and the former bauble turned into multi-facetted conglomerates. The former little search engines that were used to read and organise web content, thusly turned into a potent apparatus of the economy and of everyday life. In the process, these have not only turned the Internet upside down but have created a number of new jobs, sales markets, and marketing strategies.
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What effect have they had?
Search engines are instruments that do not only serve as a means to surf the Internet; even more so, search engines are instruments that provide a market placement within the respective competitive field. A company or service provider who cannot be found via a search engine will find it hard to generate new clients, in a time where everyone uses search engines each and every day in order to get information. Search engines have become an integral part of life, such as the Internet itself, and the ranking within the biggest search engines tells us how important we really are. However, search engines also signify power, not only for those who use such a search engine respectively those who would like to respectively have to be listed in such search engines but first and foremost for those who act as providers of search engines. Search engines generate billions in turnover world wide, and everyone participates financially in this game.
How much do we depend on them?
What would happen if all of a sudden there were no more search engines? What, if one after the other, the search engines would disappear? A disruption of the currently biggest search engine for only a period of some hours would create a financial loss of some millions world-wide, according to the estimates. This very fact alone tells us just how powerful search engines have become, what things they are able to trigger, and in which direction every high-quality search engine is bound to develop. Still, the development and complexity of search engines and the technology that is at their heart does have its drawbacks. The race for the best and most frequent keywords cropping up in just one sentence is in full swing, and has led to texts being mutilated and unreadable, with the aim of stuffing them with as many keywords as possible. And, what good is a text that can be found via a search engine straight away but cannot be properly read by anyone anymore?