Google Blogoscoped

Search Engine History

B.C-1956: The Dawn of Computing

Before Christ, there was the counting aid Abacus. Some centuries later, in 1642, Blaise Pascal builds a mechanical calculator. Around 1820, Charles Babbage follows-up with his steam-powered Difference Engine, and Countess of Lovelace Augusta Ada Byron is pondering programming it after having met him.

The first computer (a programmable calculator) by German engineer Konrad Zuse is completed in 1941.
Britain and USA take over the computing technology field with Colossus, ENIAC, the transistor (by Bell Telephone), and UNIVAC — the "Universal Automatic Computer".

1957-1990: Previously on the Internet ...

In 1957, ARPA (the Advanced Research Projects Agency, within the Department of Defense, DoD) is created to foster US-technology. Some ten years later, DARPA marks the beginnings of the Internet. Intel is founded in '68, Doug Engelbart spends time show-casing his revolutionary ideas of word processing, and a year later, Xerox creates the equally revolutionary think-tank PARC, the Palo Alto Research Center. Universities are slowly being connected together via ARPANET in 1969. In 1977, Apple II is born, followed by the IBM PC in '81. 1984, the year of cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, sees the introduction of the Domain Name System (DNS).

In the late 80s, the number of Internet hosts breaks 100,000, and people are starting to get lost. In 1990, before the days of the World Wide Web, McGill University student Alan Emtage creates FTP indexing search tool Archie. One year later, Mark McCahill introduces the alternative Gopher. Veronica (Archie's girlfriend in the comic books, and the "grandmother of search engines") appears on the scene in 1992, spidering Gopherspace texts, and Jughead is arriving in '93.

1990-1993: WWW, and WWWW

In the meantime, the World Wide Web, created by Tim Berners-Lee* and released by CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in '91, is starting to take off. And 1993, the time the first web browser Mosaic takes the world by storm, also sees the first acclaimed Web robot, Matthew Gray's World Wide Web Wanderer. Martijn Koster announces meta-tag spidering Aliweb in late '93.

*For the story on how the Web got invented, this is the book by the man who did it; "Weaving the Web" by Tim Berners-Lee.

1994: Search Engines See the Light

The World Wide Web is becoming the most important Internet service. Pizza can be ordered online, and soon Sun will give birth to Java programming technology.
In early 1994, Jerry Yang and David Filo of Stanford University start Yahoo!* in their attempt to exert some kind of order on an otherwise anarchic collection of documents.
Some months later in Washington, Brian Pinkerton's WebCrawler is getting to work; over at Carnegie Melon, Dr. Michael Maldin creates Lycos (the name comes from the Latin "wolf spider").

*"Yahoo" might be short for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle," but the two creators insist they selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.

1995-1997: Dot-Com Rising

Metacrawler, Excite (late 1995), AltaVista (late 1995), later Inktomi/ HotBot (mid-1996), AskJeeves and GoTo; more and more search engines appear. Yahoo, actually a directory, is the leader, but AltaVista — meaning"a view from above", and being a wordplay on (Palo) Alto-Vista; — launched in 1995 (and bought by Compaq in 1997) is gaining popularity.

1998-2002: Google et al

It's late 1998. Stanford's Larry Page and Sergey Brin reinvent search ranking technology with their paper "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine" and start what some time later becomes the most successful search engine in the world. Google. The uncluttered interface, speed and search result relevancy were cornerstones in winning the tech-savvy people, who were later followed by pretty much everyone looking for something online. Other contenders, like MSN, are pretty much being left in the dust. In September 1999, Google left Beta status.

Search engine optimization becomes bigger and bigger field, with experts trying to boost rankings of commercial websites.

In 2000, Yahoo and Google are becoming partners. In late 2000, Google is handling over 100 million daily search requests.
In 2001, AskJeeves aquires Teoma, and GoTo is renamed Overture.

2003: Searching Today

These days, we can find more than ever, faster than dreamed of, but we're also taking it for granted. Information at your fingertips; when you have a question, fire up Google. The answer's out there.

Google, with its 200 million hits, and over 3 billion indexed WWW pages, is hated and loved at the same time, but undeniably the most relevant search engine of today (and biggest player in the field). Google is constantly coming up with new, focussed services to enhance web search and everything that comes with it. But it's a fast world, with others lurking around the corner — most notably Norwegian FAST/ AllTheWeb, which went online 5 years ago — and throne and scepter can be inherited by anyone who dares topping Google's search technology.

For more see the Archive.



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