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Searching For Fun

By Technology Review

August 27, 2010

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Search engines are designed to help people get things done: find a local business, plan a vacation, or understand an unfamiliar concept. This focus is demonstrated by how search businesses measure their own performance—by how quickly a user find the page they were looking for. It's considered bad if someone clicks the back button to return to the search results.

But this attitude ignores a growing portion of searches: those performed when people have a few moments to kill and want to discover something entertaining or amusing—for example, when a user searches for "funny pictures" or "interesting new documentaries."

New research suggests that many people use search engines this way, and their behavior is fundamentally different from other searchers' behavior. Understanding this difference might provide new ways for search engines to attract more users and drive more traffic.

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