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Browser Wars and the Politics of Search Engines

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Presentation on theme: "Browser Wars and the Politics of Search Engines"— Presentation transcript:

1 Browser Wars and the Politics of Search Engines

2 Most People Access the Web Through Web Browsers…
Which Browser do you use? What do you like about it? Does it really matter which Browser you use? What were the “Browser Wars”?

3 Browser Wars There were once two widely used web “browsers,” both owned by giant conglomerates: Internet Explorer (owned by Microsoft) and Netscape (owned by AOL-Time-Warner). Then in 1998 IE overtook Netscape in popularity. In the year 2000, 92% of web users use IE. But Firefox is gaining ground.


5 Why do Browsers Matter? Because they can “bias” our experience of the Internet.

6 Internet Explorer acts as a particularly strict gatekeeper
IE is bundled with Windows, the most popular operating system in the world To get updates to Windows and Microsoft Office, you used to have to use IE. The same was true of lots of Windows based software. IE has all sorts of features designed to promote Microsoft products. For instance, it sets– Microsoft’s site– as the default home page. Websites designed for IE (often using Microsoft’s FrontPage) typically don’t work as well on other browsers so many webdesigners design only for IE.

7 In addition to Browsers, most people use Search Engines to surf the web.
Which search engines do you use? How many times a day do you “google” ? How do you use them? What sorts of things do you search for?

8 How do search engines work?
Take as an example: 1. Sends out a robot or “spider” to all known URLs, scans (some of) their content and indexes them. 2. Follows the links at the scanned site to find other URLs. 3. Ranks all the pages it has indexed. Google bases its page rankings on “linkage”: the number and ranking of pages that link to a particular site determines its rank. It values links from highly ranked sites more than links from lesser sites. Most search engines use spiders to scan the web for content to index and sometimes combine this with human indexers who search out and catalogue interesting pages. Some search engines, like, require sites to pay to move up in rank.

9 Most search engines are “advertising supported”
Google runs its ads in a right hand column and at the top of the page. Clients pay everytime someone clicks on one of their ads. So does Bing. Other engines (Altavista; Ask) allow clients to pay to move up the ranks. has an arrangement with Yahoo!: every time someone enters a search with the word “book” in the string, Amazon will come up somewhere in the first page of results.

10 How are the search results returned by , and different?

11 Most popular search engines (circa 2006).

12 And Google’s share of the search market has risen since then…
As of 2008, Google had extended its share to over 60% of the search market. --As of April 7, 2008, 67% of queries performed used Google, 20% Yahoo, 5.25% MSN and 4% Ask. In the US, Google is the most visited site on the Internet. (And it is even more frequently visited by people at work). Google’s Keyword ads are the most popular and profitable form of advertising on the web. There are even games based on the search engine. Google is become the gateway to the Internet for most Americans

13 What do people uses search engines for?
Google Zeitgeist Hitwise Data Center

14 Problems with Search Engines
They don’t index everything. Google claims to have indexed 8.2 billion webpages by August (Out of an estimated 40 billion pages on the web at that time). All together all the search engines & portals are estimated to have indexed only 40%of the web as of 2005 and that proportion is shrinking every year. They lead us to the most mainstream content. Search engines raise serious privacy concerns. (For instance, Yahoo, Msn and Ask all handed over the search records of its users to US government in 2006; Google refused)

15 The Problem with Google
Google has been criticized on a number of counts: -- Some have criticized the search giant for caving into political pressure to exclude certain sites from the results pages returned for certain countries (China, Singapore) -- Others have criticized Google for NOT censoring an anti-semitic website that was returned as a top result for a search of the word “jew”

16 Problems with Google continued
Google has been called “ethnocentric” because the majority of the pages it indexes are in English and hosted in the US or UK. --Alternatives are being developed: Quaero (France); Baidu (China)

17 Recent Developments: Google decides to end censorship on

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