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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Try Google Search As It Was in 2001

In honor of their tenth birthday*, Google brought back their search engine the way it was many years ago, in January 2001. Below an old-school Google logo (in 2001 they were actually already using a newer one) the input box invites you to search through “1,326,920,000 web pages”. A search for Barack Obama returns around 773 results, for instance, with the top link leading to the old address as it was, and a special link pointing to the Wayback Machine’s archived version of it (today, over 60 million results are returned). A search for Gmail returns “”, a Linux “email client for the Gnome desktop”. A search for BitTorrent returns 0 results.

Now, why isn’t Google showing the index of 1998, considering it’s supposed to celebrate their 10th birthday? “[F]or various technical reasons that are too boring to go into,” Google states in their FAQ, “earlier versions of our index aren’t readily accessible ... the January 2001 index is the best we can do.” Google’s FAQ also disclaims that the index shown is not exactly the one as it was in 2001, but that it’s a “pretty good” approximation. The FAQ adds that this special search engine won’t be live forever, but just for one month.

Google 2001 is a highly interesting trip to the past. You can get a feeling for what the web** was like back then, what topics were as of yet unknown or little talked about, and – provided the ranking order is the exact same as it was in 2001, which I’m not entirely sure about – you can also evaluate how well Google ranked results back then. Which insightful bits did you find?

*Or one of their tenth birthdays, as there’s different dates where you might want to put the “start” flag.

**The web, or to be more precise, Google’s large but incomplete index of it.


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