We live in a world where everything is at our fingertips – that’s why it’s called the information age. With the internet and search engines we are able to get the answers to any question we want. It’s hard to imagine a world without Google, Yahoo, or Bing. They are such influential parts of our lives that phrases like “Google it” have now become a verb known across the globe. In fact 94% of students said they equated Google with research.
Google is no longer your average search engine; it has propelled itself to becoming a vital part of the internet. Then what would happen if Google stopped working? Well, on Friday, August 12 2013, it did just that. The site had crashed for five minutes. That five minutes cost Google $545, 000 in lost revenue and internet traffic had dropped 40 percent.
To understand how much Google has an impact in your life, you have to see beyond the website and think of them as the corporation. They own 80% of the smart phone market and have over one billion android devices. Gmail has 420 million users, their web browser, Chrome, has 800 million users and they own YouTube, which has one billion users.
So Google owns a lot, but do you know how the search engine works?
You open up your web browser and type in Milli Vanilli; besides being an out dated search, you get some hits on the duo and enjoy a few songs. The question is, how did Google come up with the results?
When you type your search in, Google searches the surface web, which is a small portion of the web that consists of public websites. It is open to crawlers that read the web’s giant database and the information that is found is placed into an index. When Google searches for your results, it’s simply searching the index for information. Your Google search results are picked based on the most popular searches or what sites people liked the most. That is vital for the money making side of this business. The number one position on the Google search gets 33 percent of the traffic. Which means there is money to be made.
In a world where Google reigns, the search placement on the engine can mean success or failure for many businesses. As was explained earlier, the top spot goes to the most popular site, which means setting up key words for the search is very important. However, that is not the only way to make money – people can rake in big bucks from Google ads too.
There is a downside to businesses relying on Google for their primary advertising. In order to keep ahead of the curve, Google must constantly make changes to their algorithms. This downfall was noticed by a few companies during May of 2014. Updates to the site with the use of Panda 4.0 had affected Expedia, who had lost 25 percent of their search visibility.
Now that we can see the effect that Google has had on corporations, consider how it affects you. Other than being a consumer, you’re just an average Joe. You don’t want to hear about the economics of it all, you want to relate on a more human level.
Why is relying on search engines such a bad thing?
Well, most of the information you see after searching on Bing, Google, or Yahoo comes from the surface web. Below that is something called the deep web, which people have been associating with terrible things like buying a kidney or hiring an assassin – a misconception. That is known as the dark web, which are tor-encrypted sites. The deep web holds legal documents, government resources, scientific reports, and medical records.
The problem with relying on Google for information is that you are getting a filtered biased opinion. You might not consider this to be a big deal, but it has caused a phenomenon known as cybercondria to evolve. Have you ever had a cough and a pain in your lower abdomen, hopped onto the internet, searched the symptoms and found out you only have three days to live?
With the rise of the internet and humans being an anxious species, the access to certain material is hazardous to our health. Obviously everyone is an individual specimen and different symptoms can lead to different outcomes for everyone.
The American Medical association voices their concerns over relying on search engines, saying, “Our concern is the accuracy and trustworthiness of content that ranks well in Google and other search engines. Only 40 percent of teachers say their students are good at assessing the quality and accuracy of information they find via online research. And as for the teachers themselves, only five percent say ‘all/almost all’ of the information they find via search engines is trustworthy — far less than the 28 percent of all adults who say the same.”
A study was done that warned society to steer clear of commercial sites that try to provide you with medical advice. A JAMA article states:
“Many of the ads, the researchers noted, are very informational — with ‘graphs, diagrams, statistics and physician testimonials’ — and therefore not identifiable to patients as promotional material. This kind of ‘incomplete and imbalanced information’ is particularly dangerous, they note, because of its deceptively professional appearance: ‘Although consumers who are bombarded by television commercials may be aware that they are viewing an advertisement, hospital websites often have the appearance of an education portal.'”
“In terms of content,” Dr. Karunakar says, “non-profit sites scored the highest, then academic sites (including medical journal sites), and then certain non-sales-oriented commercial sites (such as WebMD and eMedicine). The least accurate information sources were newspaper articles and personal web sites. Commercial sites with a financial interest in the diagnosis, such as those sponsored by companies selling a drug or treatment device, were very common but frequently incomplete.”
So, the lesson is, if you are looking for medical accuracy it’s best to book a doctor’s appointment.
“About 20 percent of the sites that turned up in the top ten results were sponsored sites,” Dr. Karunakar says. “These site owners are motivated to promote their product, so the information found there may be biased. We also found that these sites rarely mentioned the risks or complications associated with treatment, as they are trying to represent their product in the best possible light.”
There is no argument that the impact search engines have had on our lives has been insurmountable. In contemporary society, it is human nature to want everything faster and at our fingertips. Getting information and doing research on the internet is a skill this new generation have developed due to this desire. It is an asset that is much needed in this world, as the search engine reign does not seem to be slowing down. As it currently stands, we have embraced our new world and we’re not looking back. All hail Google!