Everyone is using Search engines. They are big winners on the web.
However, what they support is a consumer attitude to the web, not a collaborative one. They provide a generic way to access information, instead of a semantic one (through classification, i.e. navigation of tree-like structures).
I really enjoy this search engine - http://aprisa.search.googlepages.com
The generic access is context-free. It results in a proliferation of pages, which compete with each other with the only option to be ranked according to a global (and generic) criterion, be it the number of hits or something correlating to some global, hence objective quality (thanks for the correction --see RobertPirsig's ZenAndTheArtOfMotorcycleMaintenance).
Generally your observations are right, but the ranking on Google isn't by number of hits. They have gone to great lengths to try to correlate the ranking with the quality. It's not great, but it's not just by number of hits.
Interesting factoid about a SearchEngines: Microsoft's MSN site in China censors searches including the words such as "democracy", "freedom" , "human rights". According to the news stories Microsoft only followed similar measures taken by Yahoo and Google.
So the basic question is: if big businesses like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google have no problems taking unconscionable measures at the request of a foreign government, what prevents them from behaving the same at the request of big corporate sponsors ?
Are we talking about the mere request of a foreign government (or even our own), or are we talking about obeying the local laws? For that matter, is there a meaningful difference? If they don't do these things, they simply cannot operate in those markets. If they disobey big corporate sponsors, they simply lose their sponsorship; there are more sponsors out there.
File or LAN-based search engines for reference:
File Locator Lite & Pro: http://www.mythicsoft.com/filelocatorlite
(No vouching for quality of these products. The were selected for the list because they claim they index PDF documents.)