From the world´s most popular smartphone operating system to some of the most advanced autonomous car technology, most people today know Google because of its many different products and services. But the main reason people around the world know about the tech giant is by using its unmatchable search engine. Today, Google processes over 3.5 billion search queries per day worldwide. Many probably don´t even know another single search engine other than Google.com. But while it might be the best, Google isn´t the only search engine available on the internet, and it certainly wasn´t the first.
When the internet became available publicly in 1990 search engines didn´t exist at all. If you wanted to visit a website you had to type in the exact address. It wasn´t until 3 years later, in 1993, that search engines began to appear. These search engines automatically created an index of websites thanks to algorithms, something that had to be done manually before that. Let´s take a look at the 3 most popular search engines that existed before Google. If you were an early internet user maybe one or two will sound familiar to you.
WebCrawler first appeared on April 20th, 1994, and while it wasn´t the very first, it was a pioneer in the sense that it was the first search engine to allow full text search queries, not only metadata or a part of the original content. It had its own database and introduced the ability to separate ads from search results. You could also customize the home page so it would greet you with personalized information each time you entered the website.
While you can still visit the website and search for whatever you want, it will bring up results from either Google or Yahoo.
If you used the internet in 1999 you probably know Lycos, given the fact that it was the most visited website that year. Also starting in 1994, this search engine began as a university project by Michael Loren Mauldin. Lycos expanded to the point of having almost a dozen other brands under its name, including Angelfire, a free website generator before blogs existed, MatchMaker.com, the first online dating site, and Wired Digital, known today as Wired.com.
The company was so successful that at one point it was valued at 17.8 billion dollars when it was acquired by Terra Networks in May of 2000. That value however would only go down from there. Today the company is worth roughly 24 million dollars.
AltaVista was one of the most popular search engines of its time. Created in 1995, it had two innovative features that set the search engine apart from all the others: it used several advanced algorithms that could pull data from more websites than any other search engine with the help of very powerful hardware running its servers. It had also a minimalist design and limited search results in order to prevent several search results from the same website. Its highly innovative features brought AltaVista to the top of the internet, receiving around 80 million visits daily just 2 years after its launch.
Sadly, in 1998, with the arrival of Google, AltaVista began to lose popularity. It was bought that year by Compaq, and the company changed its strategy to become a free email client. After years of struggle it was bought yet again by another company, this time it was the biggest rival Google has ever had: Yahoo. Not being able to compete against Google however, the site was finally shut down in July 2013.
Did you ever use any of these search engines before Google became the behemoth it is today? If so, it would be interesting to see your opinion written in the comments below.