Search engines have changed the way we find information, conduct research, buy products and services, entertain ourselves, and connect with other people.
Behind almost every online search – whether it be a website, blog, social network, or app – is a search engine.
After all, they have become the connecting force and directional guide for everyday life.
But how did it all start?
I have created a timeline of notable milestones in the history of search engines and their optimization. This way, you will understand how this technology works and why it has become such an important part of our world.
Follow a little more of the history of SEO.
1990 – Archie: the beginning of everything
In 1990, a Canadian student named Alan Emtage created the Archie tool.
The program is considered by many to be the first way to search the internet. Although apparently primitive, Archie was a program capable of indexing public FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites to make users’ lives easier.
It brought directory listings of all the files located on anonymous public sites. Thus, it created a database that allowed searching by file names.
Archie stimulated innovation in technologies that operated similarly to it, such as Veronica and Jughead, VLib, Gopher, among others.
These technologies were pioneers in the research industry, but were soon replaced by more advanced tools.
1993 – Wandex: first site indexing database
The first search engine for the web was created and called Wandex. It was conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was the first system to capture page addresses (URLs), generating the first database of sites.
Basically, it was an automated program that accessed and navigated sites following the links present on the pages.
Excite: the beginning of sophistication in searches
Excite was a project created by six undergraduate students from Stanford University who attempted to use statistical analysis of relationships in common language to improve indexing relevance.
The site, instead of compiling addresses, was a real search engine. Thus, all the user had to do was type in a desired term, and the tool would automatically search through other pages containing the indicated expression.
Known as Architext, it used journalists to write brief comments on sites in order to improve their usability compared to primitive link-based search engines and directories.
Up until then, they had created the most sophisticated form of search, a rudimentary version of what we know today.
Want to know everything about SEO? Click here.
1994 – Yahoo! and the search engine boom.
In 1994, students from California universities were focused on a new market that seemed increasingly promising. This was probably the biggest year in the history of search engines.
Within a year, iconic names in the industry emerged that paved the way for Google, such as Infoseek, AltaVista, WebCrawler, Yahoo!, and Lycos.
In the same year, two electrical engineering students from Stanford University in the United States began searching the internet for information for a contest about the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball league.
What Jerry Yang and David Filo did not imagine was that this would result in the creation of a large technology company, Yahoo!.
The difficulty in research made the duo realize an opportunity to create a search site capable of filtering searches and offering more accurate results.
The news spread throughout the institution, and the number of users of the search service grew exponentially – so much so that they needed to think of a way to monetize their technology to improve it.
To try to generate income and meet the expectations of the investors they had acquired, the students decided to take a risk and started making space available for advertisers to put banners on the Yahoo! page.
The novelty worked and showed that it was possible to make a lot of money on the internet. This was the starting shot for companies that wanted to profit from this market.
1995 – Cadê?: Brazil enters the web search market
While Yahoo! dominated the global internet search market, two Brazilians decided to try to create a national version of this type of site.
Electrical engineering students Gustavo Viberti and Fábio de Oliveira created a search tool that was a great success for many years, called Cadê?.
At first, the service was reminiscent of the early days of the American Yahoo!, both in its interface and in the tabs with categories and subcategories manually compiled by the founders and in the acceptance of advertisements.
1996 – Google: the beginning of a new era
The directories created up until that point had a big problem: word combinations didn’t work well and most results were related to advertising products that advertisers tried to push onto users.
However, a project by another duo of Stanford University students was the starting point for what would become one of the world’s largest technology companies.
At the time, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were thinking about a search system in which relevance played a more important role than the number of times a term appeared on the first page.
The idea was relatively simple: the number of times a web page was listed on another site would indicate the measure of its usefulness or relevance to users.
They understood the link from one site to another as a kind of recommendation. Thus, one of the most used metrics by various current search engines was born: PageRank.
The duo began working on a search engine called BackRub, which operated on Stanford’s servers for over a year until it consumed too much bandwidth and the students had to leave and start their own company.
In 1997, Google was finally registered as a domain.
In addition to the new way of ranking content, Google also had a significant impact on how to make money with advertising on the internet.
Instead of generating spam and showing random links to users based on the amount paid by advertisers, the company “stole” the idea from another company called Idealab and improved it: it began separating organic results from advertisements.
The problem with the “owner” of the original concept was resolved through a financially advantageous agreement for both corporations.
To fund the project, Page and Brin tried to sell their innovative technology to various competitors, including Excite.
Interestingly, Excite, which had already been in the search market for some time, considered buying or licensing Google’s technology to win the war against Yahoo!.
But the entity’s management did not think it would make such a difference and ended up rejecting the opportunity to buy Google for “only” $750,000. Currently, the company is worth more than $385 billion.
Page and Brin continued to improve their technology to achieve an ambitious goal: they wanted to organize all the world’s information and make it easily accessible.
And the plan worked: in 2000, Google became the largest search engine on the planet with about 3.3 billion searches conducted daily.
1996 – Metaminer / UOL
Computer science students Victor Ribeiro and Nivio Ziviani from the Federal University of Minas Gerais created Metaminer (also known as Miner).
As the name suggests, Metaminer is a metasearch website. In other words, it’s a web search system that allows users to search multiple simple engines simultaneously.
Unlike previous services, it doesn’t have any kind of database.
In short, the platform “mined” information from 13 other search systems (such as Cadê? and AltaVista) and sorted them into directories.
In 1999, the duo sold their technology to the Folha/UOL group, and Miner became the main search engine for BOL.
1997 – Aonde
In Brazil, other names also deserve prominence in this timeline, and one of them is Aonde.com.
Created by a 14-year-old carioca teenager, Edgard Nogueira, the site had about 4 million page views per month. It was valued at $10 million at one point, and the boy’s initial investment was R$150.
Aonde.com remains active to this day.
1999 – Radix
Radix emerged from a doctoral thesis developed at the Center for Informatics at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in 1999.
While its competitors at the time, such as Cadê? and Yahoo!, worked with the concept of directories and manual site insertion, Radix.com already used automatic registration and indexing of pages.
In addition to automated search and indexing algorithms, which were considered modern in the late 1990s, the company became famous for using XML language in the manipulation and treatment of information.
How does Google stay on top?
Google doesn’t stop. Whenever advertisers and search engine experts learn to manipulate its system, the company makes updates.
When new technologies, such as social media, start to play an important and active role in our communication, Google finds a way to integrate them into its algorithm to improve relevance.
The company has a focus: user experience, and so when habits change, the company changes too.
In this way, Google continues to be the most used search engine in the world.
Liked the content? Keep following this blog to learn everything about SEO!