We all use search engines every day. If you are online at all, then you recognize names like Google, Yahoo, Bing and more. All these search engines offer a valuable resource to dig through the endless supply of information strewn across the web and bring us what we are searching for.
But how did search engines start? What were they created for and what were their capabilities? Here are some cool facts that you may never have known about search engines:
Anyone who accesses the internet is called a user. These users have definite ways of accessing information:
- 93% of consumers worldwide use search engines to find and access websites
- 75% of those users never scroll past the first page of results
- 57% of internet users search the web every day
- 46% of those searches are for product information or services
The Beginning – 1990s
You may not think that search engines were available in the early 90s, but you would be wrong. In fact, the early 90s saw the evolution of the search engine from a directory assistant to a full-fledged web crawler similar to what is used today.
1990: Archie, the first search engine – The FTP hosted an index of downloadable directory listings.
1991: Jughead-Veronica – Searched files by their names in the Gopher listings.
1992: VLib – A virtual library of web servers in collaboration between Time Berners-Lee and CERN.
1993: W3Catalog – It mirrored web pages, reformatting the contents into individual entries.
1993: Aliweb – Allowed the user to submit the pages they wanted along with a description.
1994 saw a huge surge in search engine creation. Many of the search engines we still use today were created that year:
WebCrawler – It was the first search engine to provide full text searches. Now it is a metasearch that blends the top search results from Google, Yahoo and others.
Infoseek – It included a system of search modifiers and boasted 7.3 million visitors per month in 1997.
Lycos – It featured word matching and word proximity. At the end of 1996 it had identified 60 million documents, more than any other search engine. It is still running.
Altavista – First to provide natural language queries, it had search tips and allowed users to add or remove an URL within 24 hours from publication. In 1996 it became the exclusive provider of search results for Yahoo! Traffic topped 80 million hits a day in 1997. It is still running.
Excite – One of the major dotcom portals in the 1990s it went bankrupt in 1998 but was purchased and is still running.
Daum – A popular web portal in South Korea, it raised its service merging with hanmail.net. It is still running.
Yahoo Search – It began as a collection of web pages and then evolved into a search engine with a man-made description of any provided URL. It is still running.
1995: Looksmart – It used to be a big provider, but turned to pay-per-click and destroyed its reliability. It has been depending on MSN to stay running.
1995: Inktomi/Hotbot – Hotbot was the internet search engine of Wired magazine, but was brought down when a merger with Inkomi revealed they had let the public access a database of spam sites.
1996: Ask – Formerly called AskJeeves, it provided natural language search with human editors matching search queries. Still going.
1997: Yandex – It holds the largest search market share in Russia with over 10 billion pages indexed. Still running.
1998: Google – The big boy of search, it launched with the PageRank technology and was quickly selected by AOL and Yahoo as a search partner. It added features throughout the 2000s becoming the most important search engine in the world. It is, of course, still highly active.
1998: MSN – Relying on Overture, Looksmart and Inktomi, it was upgraded in 2004 and replaced by Bing in 2009.
1999: Open Directory Project DMOZ – By that time DMOZ was the largest internet directory run by volunteers, with listings from which a direct download was possible. It is still alive, but owned by AOL.
1999: AllTheWeb – It presented a sleek interface with some advantages over Google and Yahoo, like direct FTP search. It was bought by Overture in 2003 and rolled into Yahoo, who unfortunately ceased most of those features.
The New Century - 2000s
The new century brought many innovations to search engines as computers got faster and capable of utilizing more data.
2000:Vivismo – It is well known since 2005 as it was awarded the contract to power the search portion of FirstGov.gov (now called USA.gov).
2000: Baidu–The China’s giant search engine, it reached in a few years something like 740 million web pages indexed, mostly in the Chinese sphere. In 2007, it became the first Chinese company to be included in the NASDAQ – 100 index.
2001: Exalead –It provides apps for businesses, like the CloudView Platform, a revolutionary application using semantic technologies.
2002: Info.com –A metasearch engine which provided pay-per-click results. It is partnered with the White and Yellow Pages.
2002: Overture – Formerly Goto.com, it was the first to provide a pay-per-click placement search service. It was bought out by Yahoo.
2003: A9 –The Amazon search engine.
2004: SearchMe –A visual search engine, it organizes results as snapshots of web pages. After reaching 1.8 million visitors per month in 2009, the company lost funding and went offline.
2005: Snap –Launched from Overture’s owner Bill Gross, this search engine showed volumes, revenues, and advertisers, but proved to be too complicated for average users and turned into a web services company.
2006: ChaCha –A question answering service, with human-guided help and a distinctive chat on the main page.
2006: Sproose –A consumer engine that re-arranges ranks due to users’ votes for websites.
2006: Wikiseek – It indexed Wikipedia and linked-to Wikipedia pages. Funded by SearchMe, it used Google ads to generate profits and was terminated in 2008.
2007: Picollator –An experimental search engine that identifies and creates an index of people’s faces.
2007: Powerset – A Microsoft owned company developing a natural language search engine, with a semantic structure that tries to process user’s questions.
2007: Viewzi – It groups search results into distinct interfaces. Users get different views for their search including MP3 (with a streaming playlist), album cover art, etc.
2008: Bing –The current web search engine from Microsoft. It provides video, search suggestions (based on Powerset) and other features as its major competitors.
2009: Cuil –It was a search engine that organized web pages by content and displayed relatively long entries along with thumbnail pictures. It was shutdown in 2010.
- Google gets 84.73% of the world’s searches
- Yahoo! has 6.35%
- Baidu has 3.31%
- Bing has 3.30%
- The other 2.31% is shared by everyone else
As you can see, Google is the undisputed king of the rock as far as search engines go, but will it always be that way? So many search engines have come and gone, who is there to say that Google will remain as viable in the future as it is today? Maybe a new search engine for the World Wide Web is just around the corner!
Ken Myers is the founder & contributor for http://www.longhornleads.com/. He frequently researches and writes about a variety of topics like education, Technology, Health and many more. He welcomes your comments.