What is a search engine, anyway?

Screenshot 2018-09-01 at 10.52.36 AM.png

A search engine can be four things: 1) an index to the internet; 2) an arbiter of what’s true; 3) an objective source of information; or 4) a customized, personalized source of information. 

The truth is that Google tries to make Google Search all four of these things at the same time.

Adding to the complexity of the problem is the fact that search engine results are governed by algorithms, which are trade secrets that are constantly changing.

If you were to ask people, I suspect that most would say that Google Search should be Model No. 1 — an index to the internet — and not get involved in deciding what’s true, what’s false or what’s the answer the user wants to hear.

And yet the world increasingly demands that Google embrace Model No. 2 — to be an arbiter of what’s true.

Here's why