Measuring the Importance of User-Generated Content to Search Engines


  • Nicholas Vincent Northwestern University
  • Isaac Johnson Northwestern University
  • Patrick Sheehan Northwestern University
  • Brent Hecht Northwestern University



Search engines are some of the most popular and profitable intelligent technologies in existence. Recent research, however, has suggested that search engines may be surprisingly dependent on user-created content like Wikipedia articles to address user information needs. In this paper, we perform a rigorous audit of the extent to which Google leverages Wikipedia and other user-generated content to respond to queries. Analyzing results for six types of important queries (e.g. most popular, trending, expensive advertising), we observe that Wikipedia appears in over 80% of results pages for some query types and is by far the most prevalent individual content source across all query types. More generally, our results provide empirical information to inform a nascent but rapidly-growing debate surrounding a highlyconsequential question: Do users provide enough value to intelligent technologies that they should receive more of the economic benefits from intelligent technologies?




How to Cite

Vincent, N., Johnson, I., Sheehan, P., & Hecht, B. (2019). Measuring the Importance of User-Generated Content to Search Engines. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 13(01), 505-516.