"A search engine is an information retrieval system designed to help find information stored on a computer system. Search engines help to minimise the time required to find information. The most public, visible form of a search engine is a Web search engine which searches for information on the World Wide Web."
Read the article on Wikipedia.
Here are some common web search engines that may be helpful.
Anzwers is an effective search facility to use when trying to locate Australian web sites. It provides keyword search and access to subject directories.
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Google is an extremely fast and powerful search engine, indexing more than 2 billion web documents and now containing the only 20-year archive of Usenet discussions (consisting of over 700 million cached articles).
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Yahoo is an excellent search engine that has keyword searching and a very comprehensive subject directory.