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Impact of Search Engines on Page Popularity

Recent studies show that a majority of Web page accesses are referred by search engines. In this paper we study the widespread use of Web search engines and its impact on the ecology of the Web. In particular, we study how much impact search engines have on the popularity evolution of Web pages. For example, given that search engines return currently “popular” pages at the top of search results, are we somehow penalizing newly created pages that are not very well known yet? Are popular pages getting even more popular and new pages completely ignored? We first show that this unfortunate trend indeed exists on the Web through an experimental study based on real Web data. We then analytically estimate how much longer it takes for a new page to attract a large number of Web users when search engines return only popular pages at the top of search results. Our result shows that search engines can have an immensely worrisome impact on the discovery of new Web pages.

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