Drift Screenshot Drift website


Online Exhibition

Search engines

We use them every day for all sorts of occupations. From education and information to entertainment. Search engines are deeply integrated in our digital life. We trust them. We rely on them. We know them.

This online exhibition lets you discover the intricate strata of code and network that operate to deliver the content of a web search. Drift reveals how these strata continuously evolve, even behind what seems a very well known, stable, familiar web site.

While you visit Drift, you will discover the teeming world of code and complex networks that keep evolving to deliver the content of eight search engines. Evolution is powered by the constant work of software development teams, that continuously improve performance, security and user experience.

Drift lets you interactively explore the strata of 8 search engines that have been captured every hour over a period of two months in May and June 2020. You can explore evolution step by step or let time evolve at normal or ludicrous speed. You can explore the relative pace of evolution among strata and between two different web sites.


This is what you normally see when searching for 2021 on the search engine.

Screen shot of Duck duck go


An abstract visualization of all the lines of code, written by teams of developers. All of them are necessary to produce the search result web page.

Lines of code in a search engine

Flow/Execution trace

The flow represents the complete sequence of operations that have been performed in order to deliver the result of the search on a web page, and to organize this content in a nice and comprehensive manner.

Sequence of operations


This web-looking image represents all the connections that were established with various machines around the globe in order to fetch the content (text, images, colors, code, etc.) that appear in the web page.

All the network connections


Drift is an online exhibition designed and developed by the rethread.art collective.

Erik Natanael Gustafsson, Thomas Durieux, Jonathan Ramirez Mendoza, and Benoit Baudry are supported by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, the KMH Royal College of Music, the CASTOR center for software research, the NAVET hub for science and art and the Wallenberg Autonomous Systems, Software and AI Program (WASP).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.