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Tool for finding information, especially on the Internet or World Wide Web. Search engines are essentially massive databases that cover wide swaths of the Internet. Most consist of three parts: at least one program, called a spider, crawler, or bot, which crawls through the Internet gathering information; a database, which stores the gathered information; and a search tool, with which users search through the database by typing in keywords describing the information desired (usually at a Web site dedicated to the search engine). Increasingly, metasearch engines, which search a subset (usually 10 or so) of the huge number of search engines and then compile and index the results, are being used.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on search engine, visit Britannica.com.