The Evolution of Search

The Evolution of Search

Knowing where we’re going means knowing where we’ve come from. Same is the history of Search Engines which is short, but one of constant change.

When did the concept of ‘search’ came into force?

A web search engine software system is designed to search any information on the World Wide Web. The search results are generally presented in a line of results, often referred as ‘search engine results page’ (SERPs).

During the early days of search, the first tool used to search on the internet was Archie, in the year 1990, created by Alan Emtage, J.Peter Deutsch and Bill Heelan. This program downloaded the directory listings of all the files located on public FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites and created a searchable database of file names. However, it did not index the content of the sites.

In 1991, Mark Mc Cahill created Gopher that led to two new search programs, called Jughead and Veronica. The former was used to obtain menu information from specific Gopher server and the latter provided a keyword search for most of the Gopher menu titles.

Until, in September 2, 1993, Oscar Nierstrasz at the University of Geneva formed W3Catalog, the web’s first primitive search engine and then the real evolution of search engine began. In the same year, Matthew Gray, produced the first Web Robot, the Pearl based World Wide Web Wanderer to generate an index called ‘Wandex’. Until 1995, Wandex was used to measure the size of the World Wide Web. Two other search engines called Aliweb and JumpStation was created in 1993, but got inactive very soon due to its indexing and searching limited to the titles and headings only.

However, in 1994, the first ‘all text’ crawler-based engines called ‘WebCrawler came into the limelight and became the standard for all major search engines since then. It allowed users to search for any word in any webpage. Since 1994, different other search engines appeared and vied for popularity. These included

Yahoo amongst the above search engines became its own web-crawler based search engines, founded in March 1, 1995. Initially, Yahoo embraced popularity when it came to any sort of search. Anyone who was on the internet in the beginning remembers searching for everything through Yahoo. It was the biggest search engine back then. Even the home page was personalized for each users showing them weather updates, news, and stock options based on their interests and preferences. However, with the discovery of a better approach web search called Google in 1997, Yahoo eventually started losing its acceptance as search engine and is currently the second best search engine in the world.

Finally in September 4, 1998, Google, founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin adopted the idea of selling search terms, for a small search engine company named goto.com, and this became a significant effect on the search engine business. This gradually became one of the most profitable businesses in the internet. By February, 1999, Google was handling 500,000 searches a day. The year 2000 became remarkable in the SEO industry because of Google’s search engine that rose to prominence. Google’s innovation of PageRank helped the company achieved better results. Rapidly, SEO evolved with Google and the implementation of PageRank as an algorithm factor in search engine results.

But search engine optimization companies gradually started focusing on off-page factors. Most of the entities started developing citations (links) from other websites pointing to their webpages. In this context, Stanford University students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who later founded Google and developed PageRank algorithm, introduced BackRub, the system that checked backlinks to evaluate the prominence and value of websites. The domain Google.com was registered on September, 15, 1997, and Google Corporation was formed as a private company in 1998. Google became remarkably a smart search results by using a mathematical algorithm that rates a site based on who links to it. The ranking not only depends on the number of sites that link to a particular site, but also on the linking sites’ own important rating.

On May 9, 2000, Google Inc. announced the availability of 10 new language versions of the Google search engine. The service enabled users to conduct searches in Danish, Finnish, French, Germany, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Dutch and Norwegian. However, by year-end, the company planned to offer Google in other additional languages including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. In October, 2000, Google launched Google AdWords with 350 customers. This program enabled a site owner to display their ads on Google. When people search on Google, they see the ads and site owners get more customers. In December, with the launch of Google Toolbar, a browser plug-in, it made search easy without visiting the Google homepage. However, in February, 2002, Google released a major overhaul for AdWords- new cost-per-click pricing. Pay-per-click ads typically allow search engines to sell targeted traffic to advertisers on a cost per click basis. The pay-per-click ads are keyword targeted.

In March, 4, 2003, Google announced content targeted ad network and in April, 2003, Google bought Applied Semantics that allowed them to improve the targeting of those ads. Later, Google renamed this program as Google AdSense. AdSense allows web publishers to automate the placement of relevant ads on their content. Advertisers could also choose which keywords they wanted to target and which ad formats they wanted to market. In the same year, Google enabled the opportunity for people to search for products they want to buy with Froogle. This became Google’s shopping hub in 2012. Also the year acquired Pyra Labs, the creator of blogger. Although Pyra Lab is as old as Google (blogger started in 1999), today, more than 300 million people can visit blogger every month. In December, 2003, Google Print, now known as Google Books was introduced, that help indexing small excerpts from books to appear in search results. In 2004, this program was further expanded through digital scanning partnerships with libraries.

In April, 2004, the official Google blog went live. Today, it offers a wide variety of ways including Twitter profile and Google+ pages for people to get news from Google. 2005 witnessed the release of Google mobile web search especially formulated for viewing search results on mobile phones. The same year also released Google Analytics, for measuring the impact of websites and marketing campaigns. To measure the popularity of searches over time, Google launched Google trends in May, 2006.

May 2007, kicked off an effort to help protect people from malicious content on the internet. Today, approximately, 1 billion people use Google as safe browsing platform. In August, 2008, Google suggest a technique called Autocomplete on Google.com that help in formulating queries, reduce errors, spelling and minimize keystrokes.

In September, 2010, Google again discovered Google Instant to help users see search results as fast as possible whenever they type any query to get the information they’re looking for. And in May, 2012, the introduction of knowledge graph in search made it easier for the users to discover information about real world things including landmarks, sports, movies, celebrities and more.

Google search results gradually become so accurate and popular, which made some of the popular portals on the Internet turn to Google for their search technology. This turned over a significant amount of their traffic to third parties and competitors. However, with Google, the world’s largest search engine currently, Yahoo, is never that far behind Google. Recently, Yahoo has been getting tons of traffic for a long time. Report says, Yahoo previously beat Google in May 2011 and March 2008.

And this is the beginning… the next episode will showcase the organic SEO phase to obtain a natural placement on organic search engine results page (SERPs).

Sumita Das Dutta

Sumita Das Dutta is a tech geek and a web analyst. She has also been associated with technical writing; blogging on Google web analytics services, SEO audit, Content marketing, Online marketing, App development, Responsive design and Social media engagement. She is a content developer at Softz Solutions.

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