A lot of people rely on search engines in order to access the wide variety of information available over the Internet. A search engine is nothing but a program that accesses the Internet in an automated manner. It stores titles, keywords and contents in a large database. The search engine results are displayed according to the keywords or phrases written by the user. While learning about the history of various search engines is less likely to help you in search engine optimization, I guess that a brief history can help you understand them better.
Everything began in 1990, when three students studying informatics at the University of Montreal have created the first online search engine. They named it Archie. The tool used to download directory lists of public files on FTP directories. However, the engine was unable to index the content. It was a fairly good start though.
In 1991, Mark McCahill has developed Gopher. The respective program has led to the development of two other programs, Vernica and Jughead. Just like Archie, they only searched for titles and file names indexed by Gopher.
The first complex search engine was developed two years later though, in 1993. It was known as Web3Catalog. It was created by Oscar Nierstrasz. A different program named JumpStation was released during the same year. It used a web robot to build its own index. That robot is the predecessor of modern crawlers and spiders. The engine also had its own interface. All in all, JumpStation had three major characteristics that currently define search engines. It could visit, index and search.
The more popular WebCrawler was launched in 1994. It allowed users to search for specific words in web pages. This function became a symbol for most similar engines of those times. It was the first search engine with a huge visitor database. A few other engines were released soon, leading to a constant fight for popularity. Some of them include Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Northern Light and AltaVista. The same year also brought in Yahoo!. It was the most popular way to find information online, yet the search function operated in its own directory only.
In 1996, Netscape provided the exclusivity of a front running service through its own browser. Five different engines dominated the market by rotation, such as Yahoo!, Infoseek, Magellan, Excite and Lycos.
Two years later, in 1998, Microsoft came up with the MSN search engine, which used results from Inktopi and AltaVista too. Later on, the MSN search engine was renamed to Bing.
in 2000, Google became world renowned. It provided exquisite results for multiple searches through an innovative technique known as PageRank. The algorithm classified websites according to the respective rank, as well as the number of links that were leading to it.