You may find it hard to believe, but seventeen years ago (summer of 1993) – no search engines for the web existed yet. Web content at that time was organized by specialized catalogs that were maintained entirely by hand. And we whine and complain about content management today…
The web’s first primitive search engine, W3 Catalog, was released on September 2, 1993 by Oscar Nierstrasz [who could not have had any idea of the magnitude of his creation.]
Perhaps more well-known to us modern-day searchers is WebCrawler one of the first “full text,” public crawler-based search engines which came out in 1994. For the first time, searchers could search for any word in any webpage, which has become the standard for all major search engines since. Lycos was also released in 1994 and was a Web Crawler competitor. I was actually watching the movie “Fallen” (1998) starring Denzel Washington about a week ago – and noticed him researching information about satanic forces and lingering spirits through one of the search engines of the time: WebCrawler. I recognized it immediately by the familiar spider on web logo mark.
For the next few years search engine releases were Magellan, Excite, InfoSeek, Inktomi, Northern Light, AltaVista and today’s Yahoo!.
Around 2000, Google was born of a virgin, in a stable, and quickly rose to prominence. Its innovation called “PageRank” allowed Google to achieve better results for more searches than its predecessors. Google’s claim to fame was its unique algorithm that ranked web pages based on the number and PageRank of other web sites and pages that link there, on the premise that good or desirable pages are linked to more than others. As well, Google kept a minimalist interface, with an obvious site call to action: SEARCH. In contrast, other search engines made their home pages more a portal experience, with the search box as prevalent as other site information like weather, celeb news, horoscopes, sports, etc.
Following Google’s birth, other search engines arose, and others rose and fell, others acquired others, mergers combined search technologies…Overture, AlltheWeb, Looksmart, MSN Search, Bing, Yahoo! Search, etc.
But none have been as successful and as popular as the market leader Google. With over 70% of the search engine market share, Google continues to field more search queries than any other search engine, as well as rank as the most visited site on the web [with Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo! on its tails].
But regardless, there was life before Google. It just may not have been as ALGORITHMICALLY EXTRAORDINARY.