When you search for search, what does your internet search engine search for?

Google is undeniably the market leader in internet search. Surely every search engine, when prompted with this query should return Google as the first hit on the list? Surely, if the search service you ask has the user’s best interests at heart (those are your best interests), this is what would happen?

With the possible exception of Google, that is. By entering your search for search into Google, you obviously already know about them. To serve their users optimally, they should tell them about other search engines.

I decided to test my hypothesis — search engines have their users’ best interests at heart — by checking whether they tell me about Google. More importantly, Google had to be the first hit (after sponsored ads, if any).


Starting with Google, enter the search term “search engine” in the search dialogue box. My starting point was

The first hit on the page (that was not a sponsored link or advert) should be followed. Assuming the link takes one to a search engine site, the term “search engine” is entered into the newly discovered search engine’s dialogue box.

Repeat the above steps until a stable pattern emerges, or until one is returned to the starting point (in my case,, or until a site is returned that has no search input box.

Results -> Search Result
-> -> Search Result
-> -> Search Result
-> -> Search Result
-> -> Search Result

Stable pattern established.


WTF? is a meta-search engine, so it just spat out Google’s search result. I suppose, arguably, arriving at is arriving at Google + others. But Altavista? Who uses Altavista these days? I can hardly believe it still exists, so what’s going on here?


Repeating the experiment, but searching for “search” instead yields this: -> Search Result
-> -> Search Result

Hooray! My faith in the intertubes is restored.

2 thoughts on “Search”

  1. Search engine iteration! Grand idea. It might be interesting to try the same experiment, but starting from all the popular search engine (and metasearch) sites, to see if initial conditions affect the results or not.

    Also, this reminds me of that babelfish translator iteration experiment you did a while ago 🙂

  2. returns themselves for both “search” and “search engine.”
    Google isn’t even on their first page of results for either.

    Not sure I trust these guys to deliver reliable search results.

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