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What's a Search Engine?

In this section, you will learn:

Please watch the video and read the information below to start learning.

Video of What's a Search Engine

What is a Search Engine?

The World Wide Web is a really big place. In the last module, we learned how to use an Internet browser. An Internet browser allows us to view websites but only if we know the website's web address or URL.

For example, if we wanted to visit the DC Public Library's website and did not know that the website's URL is http://dclibrary.org, we would be stuck. When we do not know where to find information online, search engines are powerful tools to help us find websites on the World Wide Web.

A search engine is a website that helps you find other websites on the World Wide Web. In addition to websites, search engines can also help you find pictures, videos, map and direction information, and more. Three of the most popular search engines in the United States are:

All three of these search engines work by asking you to put what you are searching for into a text box. A text box is a way for you to enter a line of text using your keyboard.

Example Search - District of Columbia

Let's say you wanted to find out more information about the District of Columbia. You could start by visiting a search engine first. The home pages or beginning pages of the three most popular search engines are shown below. Through using a text box called a search box, you can enter whatever text you are interested in learning more about. Then, the search engine will find websites that match your text.

Picture 1. Google's Search Box

Google's Search Box

Picture 2. Bing's Search Box

Bing's Search Box

Picture 3. Yahoo's Search Box

Yahoo's Search Box

After you enter what you want to find into the search box, the search engine goes to work. Search engines work by taking advantage of the structure of the World Wide Web. In Web 101, we learned that the websites and web pages of the World Wide Web are connected together by hyperlinks. Search engines take advantage of these hyperlinks or connections to crawl across the web and reach the billions of websites.

For each page, a search engine stores information related to what the page is about. Using the information that you entered into the search box, the search engine will search through its stored information to find websites that you might be looking for. Then, the search engine will show you a list of websites or search results that match what you entered into the search box. The search results for the District of Columbia using Google, Bing, and Yahoo are shown below.

Picture 4. Google's Search Results

Google's Search Results

Picture 5. Bing's Search Results

Bing's Search Results

Picture 6. Yahoo's Search Results

Yahoo's Search Results

The next section will cover how to perform a basic search using Google's search engine. Use the buttons below to go to the next section.

Go Back to Search Engines Continue to How to Do a Basic Search