By Alan Anderson, David Semmelroth

Big data has made possible the development of highly capable online search engines. A search engine finding web pages based on search terms requires sophisticated algorithms and the ability to process a staggering number of requests. Here are four of the most widely used search engines:

  • Google

  • Microsoft Bing

  • Yahoo!

  • Ask

The use of Google dwarfs its competitors. As of February 2015, Google is estimated to receive 1.1 billion unique visitors each month. Bing is a distant second with 350 million; Yahoo! gets 300 million, and Ask, 245 million. Although Google isn’t the oldest search engine, it has become by far the most popular. The amount of data that Google handles each day is estimated to be about 20 petabytes (2.0 x 1016 bytes). All this traffic is profitable for Google — the bulk of its revenues come from advertising.

Google also provides computer services to organizations that don’t have their own capabilities for processing big data. Google recently introduced Google Cloud Dataflow, which allows organizations to store, analyze, and process huge quantities of data.