FIMS Publications

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Information Processing and Management

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Commercial search engines are now playing an increasingly important role in Web information dissemination and access. Of particular interest to business and national governments is whether the big engines have coverage biased towards the US or other countries. In our study we tested for national biases in three major search engines and found significant differences in their coverage of commercial Web sites. The US sites were much better covered than the others in the study: sites from China, Taiwan and Singapore. We then examined the possible technical causes of the differences and found that the language of a site does not affect its coverage by search engines. However, the visibility of a site, measured by the number of links to it, affects its chance to be covered by search engines. We conclude that the coverage bias does exist but this is due not to deliberate choices of the search engines but occurs as a natural result of cumulative advantage effects of US sites on the Web. Nevertheless, the bias remains a cause for international concern. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.