Google Explains How Search Actually Works

Google creates a new Website to let the users know what's really happening when we type a query into the Google Search box.

Google wants users to know how sesarch actually happens, from the moment they type a query into the Search box on until the instant the results appear, ready for curious users to find just the information they are pursuing.

That's the idea behind a new Website, How Search Works, created by the search giant to explain the unexplainable in the complex process that occurs when a user begins looking for answers using Google's search engine.

"Ask a question, get an answer," Jake Hubert, product manager for Google Search, wrote in a March 1 post on the Google Inside Search blog. "But what happens in between? Last year we released an animated site that illustrates an email's journey to friends and family around the world. Today we're releasing a similar Website called How Search Works.

The site offers an interactive tour and detailed explanations for what happens in a search, using a step-by-step format that makes it easier to understand and visualize along the way.

"Search starts with the Web," according to the site. "It's made up of over 30 trillion individual pages, and it's constantly growing."

From there, the How Search Works site shows the visitor the "entire life of a search query, from the Web, to crawling and indexing, to algorithmic ranking and serving, to fighting webspam."

It turns out there's more to search than many might have expected.

When a visitor to the site digs deeper, they can see more details about what search algorithms are and how they give Google the power to turn search queries into results on the page. There's even a 43-page document from Google officials that explains how they evaluate the results that are given, as well as a live demonstration slide show that shows how Google removes spam. Details on Web crawling and content indexing are also provided, as well as a history of search so far.

Also included are graphs that illustrate the problems of spam and how Google fights it, as well as a list of policies that explain when Google will proactively remove content from its searches and under what conditions that will occur.

"We hope the site helps to illuminate the split-second journey from algorithms to answers," wrote Hubert. "The animated site is available today in English and there's also a text-only version in 43 languages."

Google Search continues to maintain its huge global lead in the search engine marketplace, but the latest monthly statistics from ComScore show the Russian search engine pulling ahead of Microsoft's Bing search engine at the end of 2012, according to a recent eWEEK report.

The global ComScore rankings for December 2012 showed Google leading all search companies with 114.7 billion searches, or a 65.2 percent share, compared with the distant second-place finisher, Chinese search engine, which was used in 14.5 billion searches, for an 8.2 percent share. ranks third with 4.8 billion searches, for a 2.8 percent share of the search market.

The November 2012 global search numbers had Google leading with 114.1 billion searches, Baidu in second with 14.6 billion searches, Yahoo in third with 8.6 billion searches, Yandex in fourth place with 4.6 billion searches and Bing in fifth with 4.5 billion searches.

Google's market dominance, though, also has a less desirable consequence. Google is being sued in the United Kingdom for allegedly helping its own business by steering customers away from competitors in search results. The lawsuit surfaced in February, shortly after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cleared Google of similar conduct in the United States, and as European regulators conduct their own investigation.

Foundem, a British shopping comparison Website, filed a lawsuit against Google in London "seeking damages for revenue lost as a result of Google's 'anti-competitive conduct,'" according to an article from Bloomberg.

In the United States, Google essentially received a hand slap from the FTC after a 19-month investigation into allegations that the company had been manipulating its search algorithms to favor Google's results over those of competitors. The FTC ruled that not enough evidence existed to prove allegations from some competitors that Google had manipulated its search algorithms to harm competing Websites and unfairly promote its own competing vertical properties. Instead, the company entered into a voluntary agreement with the FTC to change some of its other business practices.