Search Engines, the New Bottleneck for Content Access
The core function of a search engine is to make content and sources of information easily accessible (although the search results themselves may actually include parts of the underlying information). In an environment with unlimited amounts of information available on open platforms such as the internet, the availability or accessibility of content is no longer a major issue. The real question is how to find the information. Search engines are becoming the most important gateway used to find content: research shows that the average user considers them to be the most important intermediary in their search for content. They also believe that search engines are reliable. The high social impact of search engines is now evident. This contribution discusses the functionality of search engines and their underlying business model – which is changing to include the aggregation of content as well as access to it, hence making search engines a new player on the content market. The biased structure of and manipulation by search engines is also explored. The regulatory environment is assessed – at present, search engines largely fall outside the scope of (tele)communications regulation – and possible remedies are proposed.
KeywordsSearch Engine Search Result Information Provider Communication Sector Electronic Communication Network
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