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Research on the Free Web Tutorial: A. What is Google?

Depends on who you ask ...

Google is:

  • a search engine
  • a behemoth international company with commercial interests
  • a cultural icon
  • the world's largest advertising platform
  • an information provider
  • an information organizer
  • very interested in you

Google is the largest company in the web business.  It created a wildly successful search engine that connects users with free web content and funds this endeavor with advertising that corresponds to the terms being searched.  In its quest to provide information, Google has explored projects (Google Books, Google Street View, "Buzz") that push the boundaries of copyright and privacy, much to the delight of its users and dismay of the lawyers, government bureaucrats, content owners, and publishers.

In the simple days of the late 1990's, all we searched for were plain web pages.  Increasingly, Google provides access to an exploding variety of digital content (e.g. images, video, articles, e-books).  Turns out -- and this is true for ALL information resources -- that it's really hard to build a single good (emphasis on good) search tool to look for all that content at once.  That's why Google has separate search tools for different types of digital content.  When you do a basic search, all these tools look the same; however, the algorithms for the searches are very different.  You can see this when you go to the advanced search page for each of the different tools.  Compare, for example, the ways in which you can narrow your search on the Advanced Google search engine and the Advanced Google image search.

This section of the tutorial will focus on the basic Google search engine, Google Scholar, and general things-you-should-know-about-Google.  Given how significant Google is to our lives, you should pay attention to things Google does that are newsworthy because they may very well impact you personally. (Remember in 2012 when Google consolidated all its services and started sharing your personal information across the accounts?) You should also go poke around at the information Google itself provides (such as Inside Search) to help you become a better user of their tools.  Finally, you should have a firm grasp on the difference between Google's various tools so that you know what is (and isn't) being provided to you in a set of search results.

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