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Abstract

Search engines were crucial in the development of the World Wide Web. Web-based information retrieval progressed from simple word matching to sophisticated algorithms for maximizing the relevance of search results. Statistical and graph-based approaches for indexing and ranking pages, natural language processing techniques for improving query results, and intelligent agents for personalizing the search process all show great promise for enhanced performance. The evolution in search technology was accompanied by growing economic pressures on search engine companies. Unable to sustain long-term viability from advertising revenues, many of the original search engines diversified into portals that farm out their search and directory operations. Vertical portals that serve focused user communities also outsource their search services, and even directory providers began to integrate search engine technologies from outside vendors. This article brings order to the chaos resulting from the variety of search tools being offered under various marketing guises. While growing reliance on a small set of search providers is leading to less diversity among search services, users can expect individualized searching experiences that factor in personal information. The convergence of technology and business models also results in more narrowly defined search spaces, which will lessen the quantity of search results while improving their quality.

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