Searching the Internet has become an almost reflexive act. Each day, tens of millions of global citizens fire up their personal computers and handheld devices to troll for information on products or to glean insights that will help guide business decisions. Yet the economic value of this enormous current of search activity remains largely unknown. Current estimates rely mainly on brute measures, such as the number of searches performed or advertising revenues reported by search companies themselves. These estimates fail to take account of how trillions of clicks combine to boost productivity, open new pathways to problem solving, or simply make life easier.
A new McKinsey study, The impact of Internet technologies: Search, takes a more comprehensive view of this phenomenon and its rising value. We looked at five key developed and developing economies—Brazil, France, Germany, India, and the United States—indentifying nine activities that are primary sources of search value, as well as 11 private, public, and individual constituencies that reap the benefits.