Search engines were not always what they are today. They evolved in time, like any other part of the web. Basically, a Search Engine is a very dynamic program that helps people access the internet. It stocks the title of the web page, key words and other relevant parts of the web page in a data base, that is used every time someone searches for something, with the help of the search engine.
In the beginning of the 90’, in the early stages of the web development, there were no search engines available. Tim Berners Lee was a pioneer in this field, editing a list of websites, hosted by a web server. But that list became inefficient, as more and more web sites appeared.
Another “ancestor” of search engines was Archie, a more efficient data base of file names, used to search for sites. It was also created in the beginning of the 90’s, by three students of Montreal’s University. Archie was a name coming from the word archive, excluding the “v” letter.
Gopher, Veronica, Jughead, Perl, Aliweb and JumpStation were other examples of what slowly became to look like a modern Search Engine. They all used the same basics like the first two. The only difference was JumpStation, who managed somehow, in a rudimentary way, searching, indexing, and crawling, the essential techniques of a search engine.
A real innovation was released on the market in 1994, in December, and it was called WebCrawler. That was the first search engine that users knew well. It was more accessible to the wide spread public. WebCrawler was the corner stone of all major search engines since, because it allowed users to search for any word in any webpage. That may seem like a standard feature today, but for that time, this was quite revolutionary.
In the period between 1994 and 1998, several search engines appeared and they were quite a success trough the wide public. From all that, it worth mentioning Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Northern Light, AltaVista and Yahoo!. With the help of these search engines, people could easily find pages of interest. Still there was a problem, because they did not use full-text copies of web pages. They rather used a web directory.
The real innovation was released on the market only around 1998-2000, when Google came out. According to statistics, it still is the most frequently used search engine today. They implemented a new system called Page Rank, that allowed people to achieve better results in their searches. The more links has a web page to others, the higher the page rank is.
Of course there were others search engines coming out after Google, like Overture, Looksmart, and Bing.
More recently, a new search engine was released. Actually it is a Similar Sites Search Engine, similaronweb.com, that helps people find pages, similar to the initial search.
The search engine came a long way, from the “caterpillar”, the rusty lists of web pages and data bases of internet’s childhood, to the “butterfly” we all know today, the reliable, precise and fast results we can obtain in a few seconds.