See Inside December 2006/January 2007

Curiosity Trumps E-Popularity

What stops a few popular Web sites from dominating the global exchange of ideas on the Internet? Human curiosity powered by search engines, researchers say.

Visitors view and link to a few Web sites such as Yahoo, eBay and MySpace often, whereas most sites are hardly noticed. Some experts worry that search engines such as Google exaggerate this trend, because they rank search results partly by how popular a Web site already is. As a result, big sites could get ever more popular and small sites could grow relatively more obscure—an increasingly undemocratic result that critics deride as a “Googlearchy.”

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