A Brief History of Search Technology

I was always fascinated by the Internet age. It feels amazing to see how the world has changed so rapidly. Internet and computers have changed the way we live. They have extended our powers to a great extent. The last decade has witnessed the flow of information at lightning speeds. People remain connected all the time all over the world. And, the most astonishing fact is the quick adaptability. It seems as if we were waiting for all these developments to happen.

All these things aroused my interest to go with the flow of information. I wanted to be a part of this fast changing world. I wanted to be a part of future Technology. So, I entered the world of “Search Technology”.

But, like most of the youngsters the first question that comes to our mind about the origin of Search Engine. 

When did Search Engines Originated?

What was the name of first Search Engine?

How did Search Engines evolved over the time?

So, Today, We will find an answer to all these questions.

A Brief History of Search Engines

You will find a lot of data related to this over internet so we will remain brief to the maximum. We will share the major developments which changed the course of innovation and delivered us a Powerful Search Technology which we experience today.

Behind Every Innovation lies a study of need. For example, telephone was invented to talk over long distances; Airplanes were invented to travel long distance in short time. But, what was the need that led to the invention of Search Engines and who recognized that need..?

The World wars exploited the emotions of Human Race to the maximum. Every country was trying to keep itself ahead of others, whether in weapon technology or space technology. Among other things, the need to manage data was increasingly felt.


During Second world war, Vannevar Bush played a very significant role for America. By profession, he was an American Engineer and Thinker. While conducting research on Analogue computers, He developed “Memex”. It was an adjustable microfilm viewer having a configuration much similar to today’s World Wide Web.  He published  an essay “As we may think” in which he talked about a system which could store large amount of information like an encyclopedia and from which information can be extracted in no time. He insisted the Scientists to create a system which can help in sharing of knowledge. His work and visionary thinking proved to be an inspiration for next generation.


Similarly, Gerard Salton worked on uncapping the power of search. He is considered as the Father of Modern Search Technology. He developed the SMART informational retrieval system with his teams at Harvard and Cornell University. He implemented various techniques to formulate a quick information retrieval system. He authored a book named “A Theory of Indexing” too.

ted nelson

In 1960, Ted Nelson created Project Xanadu in order to make a computer with simple user interface for World Wide Web. Infact, the term “Hypertext” is known to have been coined by him.

Meanwhile, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network was working to bring the Technology will would be changing the world in the coming decades. Yes, you guessed it right…It was the “Internet”. The research was funded by US Department of Defense for creating a network to be used in Universities and Research Laboratories. But, later on It was allowed to be used by public domain.

But, Vannevar Bush’s dream of sharing of information was incomplete without a suitable medium to share. People were using FTP for sharing data and file with each other. This was a time consuming process. A need was felt to create a user friendly way to express and share information. So, in 1990, World Wide Web was developed. But, like Internet, it was created to aid Research laboratories in sharing important data. Tim Berners-Lee is known as creator of the Web.


The main motive was to connect hypertext with the Internet and personal computers, in order to have a single information network to help CERN scientists share all the computer-stored information at the laboratory.

So, Web was made transformed into a creative space to share information. Info.cern.ch was the address of the world’s first-ever web site and web server, running on a NeXT computer at CERN. The first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, which centered on information regarding the WWW project.

Now, we had all the tools ready to create first search engine. We had the simple interface to work on and the network connectivity was established too. So, the first search engine was created in the year 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student of McGill University in Montreal.


The name was actually “Archieves” but it was shortened to Archie. The sole reason of its creation was to form a database which would retrieve files as per User’s Enquiry.

But, Archie lacked the capability to index files. This feature was found in next search engine called “Gopher”. For the purpose of indexing programs were developed to do the repetitive tasks of indexing web pages. They came to be known as “Search Engine Bots”  or “Web Crawler”.

Search Engine bot

Now, when the basic model of search engines was ready, the next step was to explore the search domain. Jumpstation, The World Wide Worm, RBSE and Excite were few of the early projects. But, being in experimental mode, they were not able to survive the increasing traffic.

Due to limited capacity of web crawler and lack of proper search algorithms, Search Results were not ranked properly. So, People started diverting attention to Directories. There were two advantages, firstly, Directories categorize data and secondly it gives visibility. Some of the early starter were  EInet Galaxy, Yahoo Directory, Open Directory Project [ DMOZ], LII, Business.com, Looksmart and many more. But, maintaining Directories was proved much tedious as compared to search engines because unlike web bots directories had to be manually updated. This phase of hit and trial witnessed many startups getting shut down, many companies were acquired and sold away. Only few were able to survive the competition. Many like Lycos, Ask.com, allthweb, infoseek, inktomi, alta vista tested waters.


In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google. And rest is History. Google outperformed all its competitors in the Search War. The best weapon that Google possessed was the Page Rank Algorithm, which changed the dynamics of search altogether. According to this algorithm, the links pointing towards a page, were considered as votes. The more the votes, the more was the credibility and upper positions in Search Result Pages.

Since, Businesses were getting visibility through search, So, Search space become paid. While Yahoo had started it much earlier but Google Adwords (year 2000) and adsense (year 2003) technology, provided it an edge in the paid search domain too.

 To follow the suit, Yahoo became Yahoo! Search Marketing after acquiring Inktomi and Overture. And, Microsoft launched  Ad center in the Year 2006. The thirst for Improving Search and gaining maximum market share, have made these companies to expand in every direction, whether its video search or image search. Even today, Google is revising and updating its search Algorithm to satisfy our needs for getting accurate results for our queries. And, it is not quite surprising that like everything else the future search technology will get “smart” too.

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About Vijay Sood

Vijay Sood is Digital Marketing Consultant at SwiftPropel. He has helped hundreds of International Brands to achieve web visibility and traffic. His interests include exploring Brand Marketing strategies, lead generation and web traffic optimization. When he is not working, he loves to spend time with family!

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