An algorithm is a computational process which consists of a series of instructions performed in a specific order to solve a problem. 

Algorithms can be seen as rules or mathematical functions that help calculate the solution to a problem especially if the rules are given to a computer (Cambridge Dictionary, 2021). According to Wei, J. (2021) the word algorithm is used in different contexts and its definition can be different depending on the context it is used in. Algorithms can be very simple or extremely complex processes. The simplest example of an algorithm is a recipe. If the instructions are not followed accordingly, the baking will fail. The recipe needs to be accurate and the instructions to be in the right order for the task to be completed successfully. 

TechTerms (2013) describes that more complicated algorithms are used in computer programming, search engines, computer games, social media and mobile applications. Different algorithms perform different tasks. All search engines use their own specific algorithms to search and rank websites. Improving algorithms to be more efficient makes software work as fast as possible with the smallest possible amount of system resources. This confirms that efficient algorithms can make the software more sustainable. Computer algorithms are usually created as functions, which work as small programs within a larger program. 

Wei, J. (2021) explains, that different types of algorithms solve different mathematical problems. These algorithms can be for example numerical, geometric, algebraic or theoretical algorithms. Computer algorithms usually solve analysis and data management problems. The most used algorithms are sorting algorithms which arrange data and searching algorithms and hashing algorithms that are used to finding key data. 

Wei, L. (2021) describes algorithms that are also used to collect information online when users browse the Internet. There are two types of algorithms, observer and judge algorithms. Observer algorithms only track actions and interpret them to offer advertisements. Judge algorithms match the user’s personality data to their actions and offer more relevant advertisements based on the gathered information. 

The data collected by algorithms on the Internet is used to make money for companies such as social media and search engines. Algorithms are used to make users buy things by advertising and it is possible to enable unnecessary tracking on some platforms. It is important to understand algorithms, because they are used to understand users. Understanding what an algorithm is and what it is used for helps make decisions in what we want to let the algorithms know about us. 


Wei, J. (2021). Algorithm. Techopedia. 

Cambridge Dictionary. (2021) Definition of algorithm. 

TechTerms. (2013). Algorithm. 

Wei, L. (2021). Personalized Advertising in Digital Age. Video lecture. Tampere University.