Written By Atishaya Gupta (Grade 7)
Millions behind one Word
Have you ever wondered how search engines work? These amazing pieces of technology give you amazing information, stuff that you don’t even know about – in just a matter of milliseconds. But obviously, there is a catch. A Wi-Fi-shaped catch! Yes, you do need Wi-Fi to access this information in those milliseconds! Talk about being accessible anywhere.
Anyway, we all know about Google, don’t we? It is estimated that Google handles 3.8 million searches per minute. And I used Google to search that out! So, add one more to those 3.8 million! Chances are likely that you are reading this article on Google. So, you see how Google is such a necessary part of our life? And, sometimes we don’t even realize that. If you asked me how many google searches I did today, I wouldn’t able to respond. It’s just lodged in our subconscious!
Coming back to the topic, how exactly do these search engines work? There is a lot of complex details behind the scenes, but I am going to summarise it in 3 main components.
To begin with, google sends little crawlers all around different websites. Yes, those creepy crawlers (like those horrifying spiders) that give you buckets of sweat and terrible nightmares! Just kidding. These crawlers might go to another website via surfing which is when you click on the link of one website and enter another one. The main role of these crawlers is to send back information where it is indexed into the Search Index. Websites are often re-crawled, scouring for any updates or new information. Google then renders all of the new information in updated websites and that too is sent to the Search Index.
Imagine the search index to be a massive, massive library. Every bit of information that the crawlers scour is stored right here. It contains information from billions of websites and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size. (That is a lot of zeroes). All the information of the search engine comes and goes from this central hub. If this was an actual building, it definitely won’t the best place to get lost in.
And the last and certainly the most important – Algorithms:
So now we have talked about the Search Index and Crawlers. I guess you have a good idea of where your information comes from in a search index. But how exactly does google know whom to give what? Well, Google uses powerful algorithms. These algorithms detect the user’s request and navigate through the Search Index for appropriate results. Now, these algorithms do not match word to word with the user’s request – that would yield very few results. They look for synonyms instead, for the optimum results. So, for example, if you search ‘how to make money online, the word money may be replaced by the word cash.
But what makes Google the best?
But why is it that people choose Google over other search engines, like Bing for instance? Why is it the best? Why do we search on Google.com all the time? Well, here are some reasons:
- Crawling on a large scale. Google does crawling on a grand scale which means a fresher Search Index which means more updated results.
- They have heavily invested in their algorithms and the most obscure requests from users. For example, even if you misspell a word, it will still give you accurate results (most of the time) with the correct spelling. So, hey! You get to work on your spelling as well as learn something new!
Overall, search engines carry out incredibly complex functions to give you the best results possible. If I try to explain each one of them, then this article might as well be 20 pages long. But no one can deny that Search Engines have slowly crept into our lives and continue to be a dependable part of our life. So, now hopefully you understand how these incredible pieces of technology work with their hundreds of processes – all in a few milliseconds. If you are interested in have a more in-depth understanding of how search engines work, check out these websites: https://ahrefs.com/blog/how-do-search-engines-work/ and https://www.google.com/search/howsearchworks/crawling-indexing/.
Featured Image Courtesy – Reliablesoft