What is a Web Search Engine?

As the name implies, Web search engines find Web sites containing the words you are looking for. Unlike article databases or library catalogs, search engines usually rely on automated means, typically called spiders, robots, worms or ants, to identify the pages they will include.

Search engines are not always very "bright," they search strictly for the "strings" of characters you enter. For instance, the word CAR has no meaning to the search engine computer. It can, however, find matches for the string of characters C A R in sequence, including words like inCARcerate or CARpentry.

We will look more closely at how search engines do what they do in "Getting More Information About Your Topic from the World Wide Web."