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Web-Based Search Engines

2012-09-25


According to the ancient lore of my elders, whose wisdom and insight far exceeds my own, a dark age existed before the 21st century. People had to rely on television and radio broadcasts for their news updates. If they were wondering the correct spelling of ‚??serendipitous‚?Ě they had to actually walk to a bookshelf, pull out a dictionary, and actively search for the term‚??which was wildly ineffectual, seeing as you did not know how to spell the word in the first place, so how on earth were you to look it up alphabetically? When a studious academical needed textual references and information regarding their topic of research, they, heaven forbid, had to travel to a shrine of learning (referred to as a ‚??library‚?Ě to these wise elders). Times were hard indeed.
But putting all levity aside, the emergence of widespread, web-based search engines has swept the metaphorical board of influence with regards to its effect on information and communications technology. Nowadays, people are able to, on any kind of whim; research any kind of topic, at any time, using whatever phrasing they like. They are not restricted to a certain type of phrase or term to research said topic (though censorship on these search engines does come into play and will be discussed later).
The main triumph that these beautiful engrossing websites accomplish for the general populace is accessibility to information to the extent which has never been achieved before. The absolute simplicity of the procedure lures in individuals to search to their heart‚??s content. You simply type in a comment or phrase or tentative term that will get you started on your path to knowledge. Of course, should the goal be a very specific concept, it may take a bit of tweaking. But much more often than not, the ability of an individual to find what they are looking for is exponentially increased using web-based search engines, as opposed to poring over individual textual references.
The second, equally significant triumph of using research tools such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing is the grand scope of information one can find. A library may not be equipped with each and every journal article or textbook you require. Also, a library is certainly not equipped with the ability to provide up-to-date news feeds and state of the art efficiency with conveying the news. You may be able to find the daily local newspaper or a copy of US Weekly in the magazine section (and personally, I prefer the feel of the grainy, thin paper rubbing black ink onto my fingers‚?¶it gives it a much more personal and intimate experience with the information you are processing), but the efficiency and speed with which you receive the information is more accurately personified in these websites. This, of course, is assuming that said search engines provide a news-feed option, but with increasing technology and competition within multiple search engines, one can assume that if this is not the case, it most certainly will be so within the next ten years.
Yet no matter how wonderful and innovational these search engines may be, the disadvantages and potential dangers of internet based research must be acknowledged. The all-encompassing scope of these websites was mentioned above. This is true, yet one must take into consideration the implications of such a vast amount of information. Is all the information true? What kind of credentials do the people posting the connecting website have? Though this is no fault of the search engine, which merely provides a quick and easy connection to the relevant sites, one must be very careful about how to use the information provided. The easiest example to use is the inconsistencies of articles on the site known as Wikipedia. Anyone may update the information or post what they wish. On the flip side, however, one may argue that any kind of information you get from the internet will be somewhat biased, especially news updates. And in the journal Nature, in 2005, they performed a study which stated that Wikipedia was about as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the most credible resources for information existing. All these contradicting perspectives get in the way, however, of holistically judging the credibility of sources. At a certain point, the decision remains in the hands of the researcher and the extent and care with which they obtain their information.
One other gaping disadvantage that has surfaced, so to speak, is the international inconsistency of the accessibility of sources. Nationalistic countries such as China and North Korea place a high emphasis on censorship and the maintaining of positive portrayals of their countries. Internet based search engines make no claim to this, but the assumption held by most of the populace is that these sites stand as an unbiased and neutral step to the access of information. One must recognize that this is not always the case. A Chinese student researching Tiananmen Square will most likely come up with a statement recognizing its existence and geographic location. But a student in America will immediately reach a website referencing student protests occurring in 1989. This inconsistency should be recognized and carefully considered, especially when researching topics that are easily debated and controversial.
Yet though these disadvantages must be acknowledged, the absolute and expansive influence web-based search engines have had on communications and information technology cannot be denied. Our culture in the United States has even developed numerous new terms to reference and integrate these search engines into our everyday culture and language, such as ‚??googling it.‚?Ě And on a personal level, I can verify this influence by stating that during the composition of this essay, I used the search engine Google numerous times to verify and confirm the factual references I made. The ingenuity behind these search engines has resulted in a massive information revolution, in which anyone with internet access also has the access to an unthinkable, as essentially unlimited‚??as more and more information is updated and added daily‚??wellspring of knowledge.