Search engines are a double-edged sword that plays a significant role in humans’ life

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Digitalization already becomes the keyword of this era, and search engines also are vital production in digital times. Besides, search engines also play a significant role in media and become an influential media’s form(Andersen, 2018). Specifically, searching is common as users would obtain different information through searching. Therefore, search engines can be a medium that assists users to complete different kinds of searching.

With the popularity of search engines, it would bring different types of effects to different kinds of people.In general, search engines actual increase people’s efficiency and solve the distance problem. In addition, it also would bring economic interest to advertisers and search engine companies. However, search engines also would bring negative effects to people of color and women, and gullible users. As the existing of sexism and Racism, some unreal information that would be searched by information retrieval, and these kinds of information may affect their reputation and social status. Additionally, for gullible users, they are easily cheated by the unreal advertisement. Therefore, this hypertextual essay would base on the search engines’ genesis to argue that search engines area double-edged sword, when it benefits for some users, it also would bring negative effects to others in the perspective of society and political economy.

The genesis of search engines and the historical trends in information management

Search engines can be identified as a keyword-searching information retrieval system (Halavais, 2013).  Search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo would provide different kinds of information and knowledge for users when they input keywords and conduct searches. In other words, the different search engines also would have a different function. Specifically, it is useful for users to use google to conduct online shopping and searching location. Bings would provide a huge number of concepts, and Google scholar would be used to search journal articles (Judith, 2018).

The history of Search Engines Image by Hitesh Hasin is licensed under MARKETING91

Initially, people only can search and find information and resources through the library and encyclopedia (Andersen, 2018). Until 1990, the first search engine generated and is called Archie. Archie would through search File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites to create downloadable files’ index (Raiche, 2019).In addition, Halavais(2013) mentions that the Gopher system was created in the year of 1991, and it would make browsing files that become more utility. Specifically, it also can represent the intermediary step of the World Wide Web’s direction, and it also provides the navigation function for users who can organized files and documents through menus (Halavais, 2013). However, the Gopher system would not provide the hypertext function. Furthermore, at the year of 1992, Veronica was created, and it can be used to provide a broader content index on Gopher serves (Halavais, 2013). Besides, Jughead also is another user interface, and Jughead also has the same purpose of Veronica that is used for sending files through the Gopher system (Halavais, 2013). Actually, the World Wide Web already becomes available in the year 1991. Based on the graphical browser Mosaic’s development at the year of 1993, the World Wide Web grows quickly (Halavais, 2013). For web users, at that time, the bookmark file was the most useful tool as it can be used to collect URLs, and users also would publish their bookmarks on the web (Halavais, 2013). This behavior sets the stage for the generation of search engines and collaborative directories (Halavais, 2013). Then the first search engines were created, namely Wandex, and different search engines also were created generally such as Yahoo, web crawler, Alta Vista, and Google (Raiche, 2019).

Search engines working would be divided into 3 stages including information retrieval, Web crawling, and indexing. Information retrieval means that the search engine shows the search results follow the hierarchy of level of trust and relevance, web crawling means the search engine can grab information from World Wide Web automatically and methodically, and indexing means that the search engine can analyze websites by specific texts, which is the quickest searching method (THE HISTORY OF SEARCHINGS, n.d.)

The video below would explain how search engines work and how it manages the information in detail. 

Video name: How Search Works by Google is licensed under youtube

The advantage of Search engines in the perspective of Society

In the perspective of society, ordinary people are the biggest beneficiaries as it would improve their life efficiency and quality. Specifically, when users conduct searching through search engines, their work efficiency would be increased as they only need to input keyword on the search box, and the relevant information would be displayed on the search page. Papiewski (2019) mentions that when users search information through search engines, the search engine would perform high speeds search. It means that users do not need to search sites one by one as before. Search engines would use the fastest speed to search the most relevant information for users. Therefore, users’ working time would be saved, and they would obtain more time to do what they aspire, and their life efficiency and quality also would be increased.

Search engines would bring benefits to advertisers and search engine companies in the perspective of the political economy. Specifically, if advertisers aspire that their advertisement is published on the search page, they should pay for the search engine companies (Noble, 2018). In this processing, both advertisers and search engine companies would obtain benefits. It means that once users open the advertiser’s advertisement, they would be the potential customer for advertisers. Besides, once the ads are opened by users, search engines companies would obtain money from advertisers (Noble, 2018).

The disadvantage of Search engines in the perspective of Society

However, even though search engines would bring benefits to most people, it also would bring negative effects to people of color and women. Specifically, people of color and women’s reputation and social status may be affected. Noble (2018) mentions that sexism and racism are the main problems in Google search. It means that as historical and political reasons, sexism and racism have not been completely addressed. For example, the photo below (Figure 1) represents that when users type the keyword, black women, the information retrieval function would display some relevant content that about black women, however, this kind of information is biased as it exists racism. Besides, Noble (2018) also states that these kinds of search that appear in the photo that represents the conceptualizations of Google’s algorithmic for different types of people and their ideas. In other words, as sexism and racism, some users would type some keywords that would affect people of color and women’s reputation, and once there are a larger number of users search these keywords, the search engines would recognize that these kinds of search are useful for users. Therefore, it would appear on the search page. Even though these kinds of information would not correct, it also would influence users’ views, and people of color and women’s reputation and social status would be destroyed.


That is a Google search photo concerns sexism and racism
Screenshot by Noble (2018)’s article namely A society, searching (Figure 1).


Moreover, gullible users may be affected by search engines’ development. Specifically, it is hard to deny that fraud advertising exists in the online world, and for gullible users, it would be hard to distinguish this kind of advertisement. Therefore, it may cause property damage to gullible users if they fall for it.


Search engines play a significant role in our daily life

  • learning efficiency would be improved

It cannot be denied that search engines are changing our life. Specifically, it plays an important role in student’s study. Initially, students only can research resources through the library and encyclopedia, they would utilize search for engines to search resources. Users only need to type the keywords on in search box, and search engines would search the matching resources for them. Additionally, some search engines provide dictionary function that also would improve students’ learning efficiency. For an international student, when they browse online journals, sometimes they would confuse about the meaning of specialized vocabulary. In before, they only can search the paper dictionary that is a long process. At the times, search engines can solve this problem easily as it includes a bulk of words that can meet the needs of students.


  • Obtaining comprehensive information

In real life, the information and news that people can obtain are limited. Search engines can provide a way for users to learn more information that breaks the distance limit. Specifically, search engine companies possess a huge number of databases that can provide comprehensive information for users. For example, even though students study in Australian, they still can obtain international news by searching in search engines. Therefore, search engines would break the limit of distance to provide information and news to users as soon as possible.

The problem that I faced – Obtaining some unnecessary and uncorrelated information.

Advertisement is an annoying problem that I faced. Specifically, when I use search engines to search something about learning and study, at the top of the search page is the advertisement for some school. In the following screenshot (figure 2), I just want to search how to study, however, the first search result is an advertisement of a school rather than the method of study. This phenomenon is universal when we use search engines to search.

this image is a screenshot that I searched "how to study" in Google
Screenshot(figure2): search ‘how to study” in google-google search


In conclusion, search engines are a double-edged sword as it would bring benefits to users as well as negative effects. Specifically, search engines would improve users’ efficiency as it possesses a bulk of database, and it also would provide a way for users to acquire comprehensive news and information. Additionally, it also would bring benefits to advertisers and search engine companies from the perspective of the political economy. However, even though the development of search engines would bring benefits to common users, it also would bring negative effects to specific groups including people of color, women and gullible users. Therefore, search engines are seemed like a double-edged sword as it exits positive and negative effects to users at the same time.




Andersen, J. (2018). Archiving, ordering, and searching: search engines, algorithms, databases, and   deep mediatization. Media, Culture & Society40(8), 1135–1150.


Halavais, A. (2013). The engines. In Search engine society(pp. 5–31). Cambridge, UK ; Malden, MA: Polity.




Noble, S. U. (2018). A society, searching. In Algorithms of oppression: how search engines reinforce racism(pp. 15–63). New York : New York University Press. ISBN: 9781479837243


Raiche, H. (2019). Query Society. The University of Sydney.


References for embed linking:

Bhasin, H. (2019). The History Of Search Engines (Complete Timeline from Starting). Retrieved from

How Search Works. (2010). Retrieved from

how to study – Google Search. (2019). Retrieved from…0.2..0.222.1343.0j4j3……0….1..gws-wiz…….0i71j35i305i39j0i7i30.Bgz94q8bBjA&ved=0ahUKEwi8rtLlyZPlAhVHWysKHahhDRYQ4dUDCAo&uact=5

Islwyn, S. (2019). The Advantages of Using Search Engines. Retrieved  from


Papiewski, J. (2019). The Advantages of Using Search engines. Retrieved from


THE HISTORY OF SEARCHINGS. (n.d.). Retrieved from


10 Best Search Engines 2018. (2018). Retrieved from

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