Timeline of web search engines
This page provides a full timeline of web search engines, starting from the Archie search engine in 1990. It is complementary to the history of web search engines page that provides more qualitative detail on the history.
The following are some interesting questions that can be answered by reading this timeline:
- What are some historically significant search engines and when were they launched?
- What are some significant events illustrating the evolution of internet search?
- What are some numbers illustrating the evolution of search engine?
- Sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Statistics".
- For internet userbase evolution, sort the full timeline by "Event type" and look for the group of rows with value "Statistics (internet userbase)".
|Time period||Development summary||More details|
|Pre-web search engine period|
|web search engine period|
|Year||Month and date (if available)||Event type||Event|
|1945||Concept development||American engineer Vannevar Bush introduces the concept of “collection of data and observations, the extraction of parallel material from the existing record, and the final insertion of new material into the general body of the common record.” Bush emphasizes the necessity for an expansive index for all knowledge, stating: "[Information] has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. A record, if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored...Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of the systems of indexing. The human mind does not work this way. It operates by association."|
|1987||Pre-web search engine||Search engine Archie begins as a project for students and staff at McGill University, with aims to connect the McGill University School of Computer Science to the internet.|
|1990||Pre-web search engine||The Archie search engine, created by Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan and J. Peter Deutsch, computer science students at McGill University in Montreal, goes live. The program downloads the directory listings of all the files located on public anonymous FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites, creates a searchable database of a lot of file names; however, Archie does not index the contents of these sites since the amount of data is so limited it can be readily searched manually.|
|1991||Pre-web search engine||The rise of Gopher (created in 1991 by Mark McCahill at the University of Minnesota) leads to two new search programs, Veronica and Jughead. Like Archie, they search the file names and titles stored in Gopher index systems. Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives) provides a keyword search of most Gopher menu titles in the entire Gopher listings. Jughead (Jonzy's Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation And Display) is a tool for obtaining menu information from specific Gopher servers. While the name of the search engine "Archie" was not a reference to the Archie comic book series, "Veronica" and "Jughead" are characters in the series, thus referencing their predecessor. Gopher is considered to be the first search engine using a hypertext paradigm. A step toward the World Wide Web hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), it would become popular for several years, because it provides a way to share text files from all over the world.|
|1991|| English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in Geneva launches his WWW Virtual Library |
|1992||Virtual library of the web||Timothy Berners-Lee sets up the Virtual Library (VLib), a loose confederation of topical experts maintaining relevant topical link lists.|
|1993||February||Early development||Six Stanford students create Architext, a project seeking to use statistical analysis of word relationships to improve relevancy of searches on the Internet. Architext would later become the search engine Excite. Excite would revolutionize how information is categorized, making it easier to find information “by sorting results based on keywords found within content and backend optimization.”|
|1993||April 22||The graphical Mosaic web browser improves Gopher’s primarily text-based interface. Mosaic is considered the first popular graphical web browser.|
|1993||June||Early development||Matthew Gray at MIT develops the World Wide Web Wanderer, which is considered the first web crawler to measure the size of the Web.|
|1993||June||First web robot||Matthew Gray produces the first known web robot, the Perl-based World Wide Web Wanderer, and uses it to generate an index of the web called the Wandex. However, the World Wide Web Wanderer is intended only to measure the size of the web rather than to facilitate search.|
|1993||September 2||First web search engine||W3Catalog, written by Oscar Nierstrasz at the University of Geneva, is released to the world. It is the world's first web search engine. It does not rely on a crawler and indexer but rather on already existing high-quality lists of websites. One of its main drawbacks is that the bot accesses each page hundreds of times each day, causing performance degradation.|
|1993||October/November||Second web search engine||Aliweb, a web search engine created by Martijn Koster, is announced. It does not use a web robot, but instead depends on being notified by website administrators of the existence at each site of an index file in a particular format. The absence of a bot means that less bandwidth is used; however, most website administrators are not aware of the need to submit their data.|
|1993||December||First web search engine to use a crawler and indexer||JumpStation, created by Jonathon Fletcher, is released. It is the first WWW resource-discovery tool to combine the three essential features of a web search engine (crawling, indexing, and searching).|
|1993||Statistics||There are approximately 600 websites online at the time.|
|1993||Statistics (internet userbase)||The are about 10 million internet users at the time.|
|1994||January||Search engine launch||Stanford University students Jerry Wang and David Filo create Yahoo! in a campus trailer. Yahoo starts originally as an Internet bookmark list and directory of interesting sites. Webmasters have to manually submit their page to the Yahoo directory for indexing so that it would be there for Yahoo to find when someone performed a search.|
|1994||January||New web search engine||Infoseek is launched.|
|1994||January||Web search engine supporting natural language queries||Altavista is launched. This is a first among web search engines in many ways: it has unlimited bandwidth, allows natural language queries, has search tips, and allows people to add or delete their domains in 24 hours.|
|1994||March||New web search engine||The World-Wide Web Worm is released. It is claimed to have been created in September 1993, at which time there did not exist any crawler-based search engine, but it is not the earliest at the time of its actual release. It supports Perl-based regular expressions.|
|1994||April 20||New web search engine||The WebCrawler search engine, created by Brian Pinkerton at the University of Washington, is released. Unlike its predecessors, it allows users to search for any word in any webpage, which has become the standard for all major search engines since.|
|1994||April||New web directory||Yahoo! launches its web directory. Yahoo! would not build its own web search engine until 2002, relying until then on outsourcing the search function to other companies.|
|1994||July||New web search engine||Lycos, a web search engine, is released. It began as a research project by Michael Loren Mauldin of Carnegie Mellon University's main Pittsburgh campus.|
|1994||Statistics||The number of websites grows to 10,000, up from 600 websites in 1993.|
|1995||New web directory||LookSmart is released. It competes with Yahoo! as a web directory, and the competition makes both directories more inclusive.|
|1995||Late year||Search engine launch||Excite is commercially released as a crawling search engine.|
|1995||Statistics||The number of websites grows to 100,000, up from 10,000 websites in 1994.|
|1996||January–March||Search engine launch||Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin build and test Backrub, a new search engine that ranks sites based on inbound link relevancy and popularity. The crawler begins activity in March. Backrub would ultimately become Google.|
|1996||May||New web search engine||Inktomi releases its HotBot search engine.|
|1996||Statistics||The number of websites grows to 650,000, up from 100,000 websites in 1995.|
|1996||Statistics (internet userbase)||The are about 74 million internet users at this time.|
|1996||A search engine called "RankDex" from IDD Information Services, designed by Robin Li, launches, providing a strategy for site-scoring and page-ranking.|
|1997||April||New natural language-based web search engine|| Ask Jeeves, a natural language web search engine, that aims to rank links by popularity, is released. It would later become Ask.com. AskJeeves later becomes |
|1998||July–September||New web search portal||MSN launches a search portal called MSN Search, using search results from Inktomi. After many changes to the backend search engine, MSN would start developing in-house search technology in 2005, and later change its name to Bing in June 2009.|
|1997||September 15||New web search engine||The domain Google.com is registered. Soon, Google Search is available to the public from this domain (around 1998).|
|1997||September 23||New web search engine (non-English)||Arkady Volozh and Ilya Segalovich launch their Russian web search engine yandex.ru and publicly present it at the Softool exhibition in Moscow. The initial development is by Comptek; Yandex would become a separate company in 2000. It is Russia’s largest search engine.|
|1997||Statistics||The number of websites surpasses 1,000,000, up from 650,000 websites in 1996.|
|1998||June 5||New web directory||Gnuhoo, a web directory project by Rich Skrenta and Bob Truel, both employees of Sun Microsystems, launches. It would later be renamed the Open Directory Project.|
|1998||Search engine launch||Goto.com launches with sponsored links and paid search. Advertisers bid on Goto.com to rank above organic search results, which are powered by Inktomi. Goto.com would be ultimately acquired by Yahoo!.|
|1999||May||New web search engine||AlltheWeb, based on the Ph.D. thesis of Tor Egge at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, titled FTP Search, launches. The engine is launched by Egge's company Fast Search & Transfer, established on July 16, 1997.|
|1999||Statistics||The number of websites online reaches 2.2 million.|
|1999||Statistics (internet userbase)||The number of internet users reaches 279 million.|
|2000||January 1||New web search portal||Baidu, a Chinese company that would grow to provide many search-related services, launches.|
|2002-3||Web search business consolidation||Yahoo! buys Inktomi (2002) and then Overture Services Inc. (2003) which has already bought AlltheWeb and Altavista. Starting 2003, Yahoo! starts using its own Yahoo Slurp web crawler to power Yahoo! Search. Yahoo! Search combines the technologies of all Yahoo!'s acquisitions (until 2002, Yahoo! had been using Google to power its search).|
|2003||Statistics (internet userbase)||The number of websites online reaches 38 million.|
|2003||Statistics (internet userbase)||The number of internet users reaches 782 million.|
|2004-5||November (2004) - February (2005)||Change in backend providers||Microsoft starts using its own indexer and crawler for MSN Search rather than using blended results from LookSmart and Inktomi.|
|2004||December||User experience||Google Suggest is introduced as a Google Labs feature.|
|2005||January||Webmaster tools||To combat link spam, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft collectively introduce the nofollow attribute.|
|2005||October||New web search engine||Overture owner Bill Gross launches the Snap search engine, with many features such as display of search volumes and other information, as well as sophisticated auto-completion and related terms display. It is unable to get traction and soon goes out of business.|
|2006-2009||New human-curated web search engine||Wikia launches Wikia Search, a search engine based on human curation, but then shuts it down. Relevant dates: publicly proposed December 23, 2006 and January 31, 2007, private pre-alpha December 24, 2007, toolbar release August 2008, shutdown March–May 2009.|
|2007||Search evolution||Search starts to evolve in new ways. Updates are aimed at improving the user experience.|
|2008||January 28||New web search engine||Cuil, a web search engine created by ex-Googlers that uses picture thumbnails to display search results, launches. It would later shut down on September 17, 2010.|
|2009||June 3||Search engine launch||Bing launches, with Microsoft aggressively marketing it as the search engine that would produce noticeably better results than Google.|
|2009||July 29||Web search engine consolidation||Microsoft and Yahoo! announce that they have made a ten-year deal in which the Yahoo! search engine would be replaced by Bing. Yahoo! will get to keep 88% of the revenue from all search ad sales on its site for the first five years of the deal, and have the right to sell adverts on some Microsoft sites. Yahoo! Search will still maintain its own user interface, but will eventually feature "Powered by Bing™" branding. All Yahoo! Search global customers and partners are expected to be transitioned by early 2012.|
|2009||August 10 (announced), rollout completed and made live June 8, 2010||Search algorithm update||Named Caffeine, this update is announced on August 10, 2009. It promises faster crawling, expansion of the index, and a near-real-time integration of indexing and ranking. The rollout is made live on June 8, 2010.|
|2010||September 8||User experience||Google launches Google Instant, described as a search-before-you-type feature: as users are typing, Google predicts the user's whole search query (using the same technology as in Google Suggest, later called the autocomplete feature) and instantaneously shows results for the top prediction. Google claims that this is estimated to save 2–5 seconds per search query. SEO commentators initially believe that this will have a major effect on search engine optimization, but soon revise downward their estimate of the impact.|
|2010||November 1||New web search engine||Blekko, a search engine that uses slashtags to allow people to search in more targeted categories, launches.|
|2011||June 2||Webmaster tools||Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft announce Schema.org, a joint initiative that supports a richer range of tags that websites can use to convey better information.|
|2011||February 23–24||Search algorithm update||Google launches Google Panda, a major update affecting 12% of search queries. The update continues with the earlier work of cracking down on spam, content farms, scrapers, and websites with a high ad-to-content ratio. The rollout is gradual over several months, and Panda will see many further updates.|
|2012||January 10||Search algorithm update, user experience||Google launches Search Plus Your World, a deep integration of one's social data into search. SEO commentators are critical of how the search results favor Google+ and push it to users, compared to more widely used social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.|
|2012||April 24||Search algorithm update||Google launches its "Webspam update" which would soon become known as Google Penguin.|
|2012||May 10||User experience||Microsoft announces a redesign of its Bing search engine that includes "Sidebar", a social feature that searches users' social networks for information relevant to the search query.|
|2012||May 16||Search algorithm update||Google starts rolling out Knowledge Graph, used by Google internally to store semantic relationships between objects. Google now begins displaying supplemental information about objects related to search queries on the side.|
|2013||August 21–22 (approximate date for rollout), September 26 (announcement)||Search algorithm update||Google releases Google Hummingbird, a core algorithm update that may enable more semantic search and more effective use of the Knowledge Graph in the future.|
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