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Definition: search engine

Software that looks for data that match the criteria in a query. Although search engines have been around for decades, they were brought to the forefront after the Web exploded onto the scene. Search engines differ in the way they find and index the content on the Web and the way they search those indexes to locate matches.

Although a search engine is technically the software and algorithms used to perform a search, the term has become synonymous with the complete service, such as the Google, Yahoo! and Bing search engines. See spider, SERP, Web search engines, vertical search engine, organic search results, search engine optimization and social search engine.