As SEO practitioners, we are so consumed with what we are doing in the ‘here and now’ that we often forget where the search engines originated from. In over two decades, the ideas and programming used by search engines have changed dramatically, from the very basic of word search to what we know today which are complex algorithms which take into account hundreds of factors.
Jamie from setupablogtoday.com has created an infographic which chronicles the past 25 years of search engine evolution.
In 1990, Archie, short for “archive”, was the first search engine ever created. Its functions were extremely basic, however the idea behind what it did was well beyond its time.
The website was used by people looking for directory listing. Searchers were allowed to enter a variety of parameters to narrow down their results, and only had access to the list names of each directory in the system.
The actual content of the directory was not included in the results or database due to limited amounts of storage space.
VLib: Created in 1992
VLib was created by Time Berners-Lee as a virtual library. People could access a large number of documents on multiple hosted servers. The search was very basic, but the content listed on the servers was massive compared to other search engines that appeared before VLib.
This servers eventually became accessible for people around the world and VLib is known as a very early foundation of the World Wide Web.
The Beginning of Modern Day Search Engines: Excite
In February of 1993, six Stanford undergraduate students founded the Excite search engine.
Excite was widely popular for nearly a decade, and is still in use today. This search engine went from allowing user to perform basic string searches to crawling web pages for headers, alt tages, meta tags and more.
Excite was eventually bought in 1999 by @Home.
The Rise of the World Wide Web Wanderer and JumpStation
In June of 1993, the World Wide Web Wanderer and JumpStation revolutionized the way search engines operated.
Both search engines utilized bots to crawl pages, index URLs and measure the growth of the Internet itself. Besides URLs, titles of each page were indexed as well. While the web crawling bots signified the beginning of the modern day search engine, JumpStation and the Wanderer both had problems with lag time when searches were performed, and, in many cases, people found it difficult to find pages they were looking for if exact matches weren’t used.
The Big Players: Alta Vista, Yahoo! and Google
Between 1994 and 1998, three major search engines were founded: Alta Vista, Yahoo! and Google.
Alta Vista was the first search engine to use unlimited bandwidth for allowing users to add their URLs. When Google and Yahoo eventually grew into major companies, Alta Vista was pushed out of the picture.
Yahoo, created in 1994 by Jerry Lang and David Filo, began by featuring only the most popular web pages. Over time, the popularity of the search engine forced them to expand to include various directories from other resources. Until 2002, Yahoo outsourced their search services and did not build in houses databases.
Google was founded in 1996 by two Stanford students. Originally known as Backrub, Larry and Sergey used popularity and relevance signals (backlinks) as the determining factors when finding and ranking websites. An authority system, PageRank, was created to rank websites based on how many inbound links were found for each site.
Check it out below
Infographic by the awesome team at