A History of the Search Engine

search engine historyAs many of you know, yesterday was Google’s 15th birthday, which made me pause and wonder how the whole “search engine” thing got started. So, here’s the history behind one of the technological things we use the most these days:

Archie, 1990

Searching the Internet first started with a tool called Archie, which was created in 1990 by three students from McGill University – Alan Emtage, J. Peter Deutsch, and Bill Heelan. Archie downloaded all of the files on FTP sites, but because there wasn’t much space, you could only the listings were downloaded – not the actual content for the sites.

Gopher, 1991

Gopher, an application designed to retrieve Internet documents, was developed in 1991 by Mark McCahill at the University of Minnesota. Gopher led to two search programs named Jughead and Veronica, which were much like Archie. Jughead, however, could collect menu information from servers and Veronica could perform a keyword search of menu titles.

W3Catalog, 1993

The W3Catalog, developed by Oscar Nierstrasz in 1993, was arguably the first true search engine. It searched through all of the manually-maintained lists of web resources and reformatted all of their contents into single entries.

Aliweb, 1993

Aliweb is considered the web’s second search engine. Created in 1993 by developer Martijn Koster, Aliweb let people submit their website’s index file locations. It then could include webpages, keywords, and user-written descriptions in its results.

JumpStation, 1993

JumpStation was the very first search engine to include all three important features of a search engine – crawling, searching, and indexing. It was created in late 1993 by Jonathan Fletcher and was able to search an index using keywords and listed the results according to keyword matches.

WebCrawler, 1994

WebCrawler is probably the first historical search engine that rings a bell. WebCrawler was the first search engine to provide “full text search” (it let users search for any word on any webpage), which is how search engines operate today. It’s also the oldest search engine that is still active.

Yahoo, 1995

Yahoo, which was created by two Stanford University graduate students, was originally called “David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” It was later renamed Yahoo! and featured a web directory search function instead of a search function for copies of web pages. This let users browse through the directory instead of having to use keywords to search.

Google, 1998

Google’s search engine was launched in 1998 and began selling search terms (an idea that was borrowed from a search engine company called goto.com). This gave Google some popularity and in 2000, it rose to the top of search engines by creating PageRank – an algorithm that ranks web pages based on its affiliated websites.

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