The Complete History of Search Engines
It’s hard to believe that Google Search officially launched on September 27, 1998. In the history of search engines, Google has set the standard for innovation and excellence. Their ever-changing search algorithm continues to meet the increasing demands of searchers worldwide.
To understand how Google search works, we need to explore the history of the Google Search Engine.
To do that, we start at the beginning of search and continue through Google’s storied existence.
Search Engine Timeline
1990– The first search engine is Archie. A year after they invented the world wide web (WWW), the early search engine crawled through an index of downloadable files. However, the limited data made only the listings available, not the content.
1991– Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the WWW, created a virtual library to help users find URLs for different websites. The CERN webservers hosted the library at the beginning of the internet.
1993– JumpStation brought a new leap with their linear search, which showed a page’s title and header in the same results. The search engine ranks results in the order they were found.
1994– David Filo and Jerry Yang create Yahoo! Search. The site was the first collection of web pages across the internet. They include man-made descriptions for the URLs. Site owners can add Informational sites for free, but commercial sites have to pay $300/year.
WebCrawler– the same year that Yahoo! Search launched saw the launch of Web Crawler. They created the first search engine to index entire pages—the amount of data required to do the search engine is too slow to use during the day.
1995– Lycos search engine was also launched in 1994. The search engine cataloged over 394,000 documents by August. By January 1995, they had over 1.5 million papers cataloged.
1996- Larry Page and Sergey Brin created the predecessor to Google BackRub. The initial idea used backlinks to help rank websites for better search.
The backlinks show you how one website that links to another site counts as a vote. This idea is the basis of a website’s authority. Today’s algorithm still relies on the same initial concept. It has advanced tremendously in the past 20 years, but backlinking still affects the ranking.
AskJeeves– The first search engine where they attempt to have human editors respond to search queries. The site became easy prey to spam.
Inktomi– A pioneer in the paid advertising model. Inktomi provided an early precursor to pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Lycos– Still the largest search engine. Lycos now has over 60 million documents indexed.
1998– Google officially launches.
Overture (formerly Goto.com)– The company was the first to use a PPC model successfully.
1999– Sequoia Capital and others invest in Google. Also, AOL selects Google as a search partner.
2000– The Teoma engine is released
2001- The search engine Excite is bankrupt and bought for $10 million.
AskJeeves– The search engine accepts Teoma to replace its Direct search engine.
2002- Yahoo! acquires other search engines to find customer search results organically. Previously, they outsourced the service to third-party vendors.
2003- AllTheWeb bought Overture for $70 million, and Inktomi was purchased by Yahoo! for $235 million. Yahoo! then buys Overture for $1.63 billion.
Google– They announced the first search algorithm update at Northeastern’s SES Boston, which is why it is called the “Boston” update.
2004- Microsoft launches their new MSN search engine.
2005- Microsoft’s MSN search engine starts to use its in-house technology in favor of Yahoo! results.
Ask– IAC (Ticketmaster.com and Match.com) buy Ask Jeeves for $1.85 Billion. They change the name to Ask.com and drop the Teoma search platform.
Nofollow– The major search engines use the “nofollow” tag to clean up spammy blogs.
2007- Google created “Universal Search.” Instead of the traditional 10-listings, they added features for News, Video, Images, Local, and other verticals.
2008- “Google Suggest” launch provides dropdowns of suggested topics.
2009- MSN/Live Search becomes Bing.
2010- Google improved its web indexing system to enhance fresh search results by 50%. They call the update Caffeine.
Google Instant shows real-time search results for users as they enter a query.
2011- To create a more structured internet, Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft (Bing) made Schema.org.
Google– The search engine launches the first significant algorithm change to improve query results. The Google Panda algorithm reduces the effectiveness of content farms and scraper sites. The change affects 12% of all US search results.
2012- Following the Panda release, Google launched the Google Penguin algorithm update. This update penalizes sites for buying links or using link networks to boost search rankings.
2013- Google revolutionizes its search algorithm again with its Hummingbird update. The algorithm is the first attempt by a search engine to understand the human intent behind a search query. The history of search until then focused on how to improve language queries.
2014- Yahoo! becomes the US’s default search engine for Mozilla Firefox.
Google– The Pigeon algorithm updates the search engine’s local search results. They want to provide accurate, relevant local search results for users.
Google– discusses how website security is now a ranking factor with their HTTPS Everywhere campaign.
2015- Google unleashes Mobilegeddon to force websites to add mobile-friendly websites. The change acknowledges the rapid rise in mobile search use.
Furthermore, Google releases RankBrain, a machine learning program that automates the ranking algorithm.
Bing– Copying Google, they add a mobile-friendly algorithm.
2016- Google Possum attacks local spam sites just like the “nofollow” tag a decade earlier removed spammy websites.
Google also integrated the Google Penguin update in the core ranking algorithm to ensure the death of link farms
2017- Google penalized sites using interstitial and pop-up ads that destroy the mobile experience.
- Google introduced the BERT algorithm, a natural language processing model that helps Google understand the meaning of search queries more accurately.
- Google also launched Google Search Console, a new tool that helps website owners track their website’s performance in Google search results.
- Google introduced the Mobile-First Index, which means that Google now primarily indexes websites for mobile devices.
- Google also launched Google Analytics 4, a new version of Google Analytics that is designed to be more privacy-focused.
- Google introduced the Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure a website’s performance on mobile devices.
- Google launched Google My Business, a new tool that helps businesses manage their online presence in Google Search and Maps.
- Google introduced the Multitask Unified Model (MUM), a new AI model that can understand and respond to complex search queries.
- Google also launched Google Search Highlights, which are snippets of information that appear at the top of search results for specific queries.
- Google introduced the Page Experience update, a ranking factor that considers the Core Web Vitals metrics.
- Google also launched Google Topics, a new feature that allows users to search for information on specific topics.
The history of search is fascinating. Initially, no one would have suspected that an upstart like Google would dominate search engines the way they have over the past few years. However, looking back, it’s clear that Google was the first to understand what customers truly wanted. They were the first to focus on providing relevant and accurate search results, and they were the first to use artificial intelligence to improve their search engine.
As search engine marketers, we can learn much from Google’s history. By understanding how Google has evolved over the years, we can better understand what it takes to rank well in search results. We can also stay ahead by anticipating Google’s upcoming requirements.