Internet search engines use a lot of math to figure out exactly what qualifies as most relevant Web page to present as a result of a search, they say.
Google, for example, uses a page ranking algorithm rumored to be the largest numerical calculation carried out anywhere in the world.
With the Web growing explosively, researchers at the University of Southern California have proposed using quantum computers to speed up that process.
They wanted to see whether quantum computing could be used to run the Google algorithm faster, they said.
In current computers, bits encode data distinctly as either a one or a zero, whereas quantum computers use quantum bits or "qubits," which can encode a one and a zero at the same time.
Called superposition, this property could some day allow quantum computers to perform certain calculations much faster than traditional computers, the researchers said.
While there currently is no quantum computer in the world large enough to run Google's page ranking algorithm for the entire Web, the researchers generated models of the Web that simulated a few thousand Web pages.
Their simulations showed a quantum computer could, in principle, return the ranking of the most important pages in the Web faster than traditional computers, and that this quantum speedup would improve the more pages needed to be ranked, a USC release said Tuesday.