Search Engine History


I recently finished updating my article about the history of search engines from 1945 to today. Please let me know what you guys think, and if I left any important bits out.


thank you for not mentioning

thank you for not mentioning the lawsuit

Happy Massa


Depends on whether you want a complete history or just a popular history of things the masses might know. I didn't see any mentions of the z39.50 protocol that was and still is used to power search in many large libraries, universities and still even appears to power the library of congress..

I did a contract for a company that built and sold z39.50-based library researcher software in the early 90s before I ever saw these new fangled internet search engines, and it was amazing the kinds of things I could quickly and easily find with a bibliographical search.

At the time this was mostly used by people in libraries or online researchers that actually paid to get access to full text copies of information downloaded over the net, and this was long before Google ever starting scanning books.

I guess if you want to get snooty you could call it a "Library Automation System" but it did do SEARCH and was about the coolest thing I ever saw on the net in the early days.

Google (BETA)

I had a giggle about the Google BETA logo

It's like some things never change......

Ahh the good old days...

Not quite that old IncrediBill, to me search started in 94, 95 or 96, I know it existed before then but to me that's when people really got online. I'd love to chat to someone that was onto it before 94, would be a blast to hear stories from that era - to be honest I have no idea. Does someone care to post some reminicent stories, that would be o so cool.

I miss the days of InfoSeek and AltaVista, spamming submissions via multiple proxies and seeing your *hard* work pay off a couple of hours later. It's been interesting watching the web grow though.

I hear a lot of stories whining about this and that and the state of the SERPS and think back to the old days. Man search has come of age, and the level of innovation from Google lately has been astounding, they are actually still improving in areas I keep a close eye on. Some brilliant stuff too.

But boy did google sort the men from the boys, I still think 90% of the search community live in total darkness as to what's really going on and create conspiracy stories to make up for it.

It's like a soap opera!

Wow. I remember using Archie. And Veronica. But not Jughead.

Also, Can you make that article print friendly? It's a lot to read online.

there ya go...

would be a blast to hear stories from that era - to be honest I have no idea.

So Aaron, when do you make a timeline with the ability for people to add comments under milestones? Sounds lik e something that would go viral, prompt interaction among SEOs and others.

Aaron I think it's great. I

Aaron I think it's great. I was so busy back when Archie came out I had no idea of timeline.... things were just new and cool and realy drove development much more than things seem to drive development today. Back then one thing like the cern "page" would cause a handful of people to work all day to get the local networks properly configured for access, and scalable, etc. The guy patching would get emails every 10 minutes from eager users, wanting to know when it would be done. It was "viral".

I miss any mention of BBS though. Most of the computer geeks involved pre-Gopher or even well into the time Gopher failed to deliver were BBS makers, users, and developers. Online communities existed via BBS way back, and until graphics game along the BBS was a primary tool. My memory fails me but there were index/search development attempts back then, too. And they appeared to lead to development of large ISP-like services (Compuserve, Freenet?) and FTP archives (wustl?)... maybe because search didn't satisfy user demand? Altavista was one answer to that, at least for me. I think the death of the BBS paralleled not the availability of SLIP protocol and ISPs, but the utility of Altavista.

John has a point

The big BBS's like Compuserve, Genie, Prodigy, and AOL all had "search" but you were lucky if you could find much. Heck, I used to run a FidoNet node back in the day with newsfeeds from around the world, I think they were called Echo Mail.

Off the search topic...

Used to chat via email with someone on FidoNet in Israel and it took 2 days for the email to hop from machine to machine, node to node, zone to zone, to get to him, amazing that now it takes about 2 seconds tops.

A timeline would be a cool

A timeline would be a cool feature...I would need to hire a flash designer before doing that though. Maybe an item for early next year.

I got the BBS documentary, but have not yet watched it. Maybe I could check it out and add a few BBS data points in there.

As far as a printer friendly version goes, I thought I did it w css somehow, but maybe not... so here is this for now

Good stuff, Aaron, thanks

Would've liked to see NorthernLight as a former major contender in that list, too, though.

Also, some of the smaller (often quite experimental) ones like Fybersearch (still active), Electric Monk (defunct AFAIK), plus PPC outfits like Aha, Findwhat and their current incarnations might deserve mentioning.

There's also (or used to be) the lesser speciality search engines, metas and directories like Paperboy, Paperball, Euroseek, Intersearch, Magellan, Netguide, Newhoo, Oingo, 7search, Kelkoo, Rex and a slew of others. (Not to mention the foreign engines ...)

But of course all this would easily turn into a full time job if you'd really try for ultimate completeness.

>>NorthernLight I agree.


I agree. There was a time when NL was a major contender.

It is a great article. It makes me remember how exciting the early days of search were, with serious new directories and SE's launching almost every month. Thanks, Aaron, for a good read.

no googleguy?

heh. i just skimmed some of it, but it may have been interesting to talk about the 'pseudo' liason googleguy ...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.