Towards understanding search engines, 1

An ever-pegging question about the sensibility of IT all:

  • computers can calculate fast (1 division operation took 1,2 milliseconds or 0,0012 seconds in the year 1957 – now computers calculate at rates thousands of times greater)
  • there are millions of developers working on software projects
  • some thousands of developers are probably also working on everyday search AI, developing things that would make life easier on the web
  • terabytes of data available from almost every conceivable societal and physical artefact – and the pace is surely increasing as we go bigger with IoT
  • why do we struggle sometimes doing the most “deemed mundane” tasks like keeping our own computer in good running condition?

“Google is your friend.”
It’s a known phrase, sometimes thrown out to a person who seeks help (and even though Scott Galloway once said Google is actually God).

My Intent

What we are doing in Google? Do we actually know our current intent?

Intent means a purpose, goal. In web and search context, there’s a sort of heuristics given about intent:

  • intent is fulfilled when you (searcher, “user”) find what you needed
  • if you don’t find it (your intent is not fulfilled), you most likely keep browsing.. hitting more searches in a search engine..
  • or get fatigued and stop browsing!

Google and other search engines are intermediators between 2 parties: Web pages <–> Users. Users know that there’s an ocean of information out there, but if you’d start crawling URLs randomly, it would take quite a lot of time and probably be less fruitful in your search for fulfilling the “task at hand”.

“I wonder how many bolts the Tower of Eiffel has?”

Google parses the sentence using AI, and starts matching it against an index of all the web pages in the world. AI parsing needs to extract some knowledge out of your search phrase:

  • unique and relevant word ‘bolts’
  • “Tower of Eiffel” seems to be a concept of some kind
  • what is bolt
  • search engine has NLP that understands the phrase, if you type it verbatim to the Google search box

I found the answer, through Google, in 8 seconds. I also learned that it’s not “bolts”, but the industry uses word rivets instead. I can look up a rivet, and get more information. This is the beauty of the frugal web. It’s also the possible friction-causing phenomenon:

Many offerings, pages, on the Internet are tweaked to make you stay, spend time.

If we got 1+ billion blogs, for example, it’s both exhilarating and a bit baffling. I like frugality! But it really puts search engines at a pivotal point in our lives.

That’s why I’ll be researching some of the implications of search engine tech.

One response to “Towards understanding search engines, 1”

  1. […] Asked a question from that engine of pluripotence. […]

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