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A Brief History of Search Engines

Google recently turned 18 years old (they grow up so fast…) and the search engine remains the UK’s favourite means of scouring the web. But do you remember any of the previous means of searching online? Take a trip down memory lane and explore some of the other notable avenues of search that will leave many of us thankful for today’s modern search capabilities.

Archie – 1990

Officially the first and oldest search engine to exist, Archie was solely an FTP site which offered downloadable directory listings; however its key limitation was that it only displayed the names of listings available, the content of the files weren’t available due to limited space – yes, you heard us correctly, almost inconceivable today!

Did you know…

Archie was meant to be named ‘Archives’, however it was shortened to follow Unix naming standards.

1992 – Virtual Library of the Web

The Virtual Library of the Web was the first index of content online (WWW) run by a selection of volunteers who each had their own expert area. The indexes are located on large numbers of servers across the world and links for pages are still available today at http://vlib.org/.

1994 – The Introduction of Robots Exclusion

Web bots led the first example of search engine standardisation, for how they should index content correctly. Jumpstation was the first web search engine to combine search, crawling and indexing on one search platform.

January 1994 – AltaVista

The first search engine to have almost unlimited bandwidth, AltaVista allowed for natural search queries and an array of advanced search tools.

Did you know…

Altavista was later bought by Overture for $80 million in stock in 2003 (another search engine launched in 1998), who were subsequently bought by Yahoo! They continued to use some of AltaVista’s search technology in Yahoo! Search.

April 1994 – Yahoo! Launches web directory

The Yahoo! directory was initially created to keep together a collection of creators David Filo and Jerry Yang’s preferred web pages. Soon it grew large enough that it became a fully searchable directory. Today, this directory is now part of Yahoo! Small Business and costs $300 a year to get listed.

Did you know…

– In 2002, Yahoo submitted an unsuccessful $3 billion bid to acquire Google

– Yahoo! is an acronym for ‘Yet Another Hierarchically Officious Oracle’

April 1997 – Ask Jeeves/Ask arrives

Ask Jeeves was set up to serve up search results through natural language questions. There’s no doubt you’ll remember the lovable butler of the internet, Jeeves. However as with Clippy, Links the cat and other lovable computer helpers from way back when, he’s now nothing but a fond, distant memory, having disappeared from our monitors in 2006. Today, the search engine still exists but as Ask.com.

Did you know…

Jeeves was based off of the character from Jeeves & Wooster series.

1997 – Google registers domain

Starting of its life named ‘Backrub’ and not officially known as Google until 1997, this search engine started off using links to determine which pages online were most important. It soon built itself a reputation for delivering relevant results.

Did you know…

– The name ‘Google’ was inspired from the mathematical term “googol”, meaning a number one followed by one hundred zeros or 10 to the power of a hundred.

– The first ‘Google Doodle’ appeared in 1998

So there you have it, how many of these do you remember? And do you personally use Google or prefer the likes of Bing or perhaps another platform? Whatever your choice, if you have your own website, to ensure you’re visible in search, make sure you’re implementing a good SEO strategy.

Look who’s talking…

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