The grandfather of all search engines was Archie, created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal. The author originally wanted to call the program “archives,” but had to shorten it to comply with the Unix world standard of assigning programs and files short, cryptic names such as grep, cat, troff, sed, awk, perl, and so on. For more information on where Archie is today, see: … Archie is short for “Archives” but the programmer had to conform to UNIX standards of short names. Archie – A long-established (read: antiquated) way to find files on the Internet, Archie is a system that gathers, indexes, and helps you find information anywhere on the Internet. Developed at McGill University, Archie started life as an indexed directory of files from archives. However, Archie is a slow boy, and his findings depend on how well maintained the Archie server he connects to is. Found files are retrieved using ftp (file transfer protocol).

Gopher is like FTP, but for documents instead of files. Gopher servers contain plain-text documents (no images, no hypertext) that can be retrieved. Archie’s popularity had grown such that in 1993, the University of Nevada System Computing Services group developed Veronica(5) (the grandmother of search engines). It was created as a type of searching device similar to Archie but for Gopher files. Another Gopher search service, called Jughead, appeared a little later, probably for the sole purpose of rounding out the comic-strip triumvirate. Jughead is an acronym for Jonzy’s Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display, although, like Veronica, it is probably safe to assume that the creator backed into the acronym. Jughead’s functionality was pretty much identical to Veronica’s, although it appears to be a little rougher around the edges. Gopher – Named after a college mascot–and for its ability to “go for” information–Gopher is a text-based information retrieval system for the Internet. Equipped with a Gopher client, you can use Gopher servers to search databases around the globe for keywords or subjects. Because Web browsers include Gopher client capabilities, the Web is superseding Gopher for document retrieval. One advantage of searching with Gopher is that you can read stuff directly from the servers–no need to copy or save the files to your system first.

The popular public search engine, Excite, has roots that extend rather far back in the history of the web. Initially, the project was called Architext; it was started by six Stanford undergraduates in February 1993. Their idea was to use statistical analysis of word relationships in order to provide more efficient searches through the large amount of information on the Internet. Founders Mark Van Haren, Ryan McIntyre, Ben Lutch, Joe Kraus, Graham Spencer, and Martin Reinfried The five hackers and one political science major set off at once for the Stanford library to research the best way in which to fill the information search-and-retrieval void.

Yahoo! and a Yippity tai-yai-yay!
At this stage in the game, people were creating pages of links to their favorite documents. In April 1994, two Stanford University Ph.D. candidates, David Filo and Jerry Yang, created some pages that became rather popular. They called the collection of pages Yahoo! Their official explanation for the name choice was that they considered themselves to be a pair of yahoos. The name Yahoo! is supposed to stand for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle,” but Filo and Yang insist they selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos. Yahoo! itself first resided on Yang’s student workstation, “akebono,” while the search engine was lodged on Filo’s computer “konishiki” (both machines were named after legendary Hawaiian sumo wrestlers).

Brian’s WebCrawler: Some Spider!
WebCrawler went online way back in the spring, 1994. It is another one of the search engines that was started as a research project – this one at the University of Washington developed by Brian Pinkerton. … As bots got better and better, one rose above the pack with it’s unique ability to index the entire text of a web page. Other bots were storing the title and the URL, and the first 100 or so words of a document, but it was WebCrawler that first allowed the user to search the full text of entire documents.

Lycos was indeed the next big kid on the block, bursting out of the labs at Carnegie Mellon University during the July of 1994. The name Lycos comes from the Latin for “wolf spider.” The person responsible for unleashing this force onto the world is Michael Mauldin. He is currently on leave from CMU, acting as Chief Scientist at Lycos, Inc. In a paper describing design decisions made while programming Lycos, he gives a very nice history of the service. Lycos is named for Lycosidae, the Latin name for the wolf spider family. Unlike other spiders that sit passively in their web, wolf spiders are hunters, actively stalking their prey.

Representatives of Infoseek, another major search engine, say that they founded their corporation in January 1994. Although this may be true, the search engine itself was not accessible until much later that year. Went online in August 1995 as a directory service. However, in late 96, a new full indexing search engine called Ultra went online with 25million URLS. In 1999 a 45% stake of Infoseek was purchased by Disney and is in the process of building a new site called

AltaVista is Spanish for “high view.” The search engine was originally launched in 1995 as a subdomain of Digital Equipment’s web site, as As AltaVista’s popularity soared, most people trying to find it instead landed at the web site of Alta Vista Technology, Incorporated (ATI), which had launched the domain in 1994.

The idea for the name AltaVista originally came from a laboratory white board that had been partially erased. The word Alto (of Palo Alto) was juxtaposed beside the word Vista and someone called out, “How about AltoVista!” which led to the name AltaVista, meaning “The view from above.” … Digital Equipment Corporation’s (DEC) AltaVista was a latecomer to the scene; it had its online debut in December 1995. Nonetheless, it had a number of innovative features that quickly catapulted it to the top. The least of the features was its speed. Run on a bunch of DEC Alphas, it had the horsepower to handle millions of hits per day without slowing down in the slightest.

The Powerful HotBot
On the May 20, 1996, Inktomi Corporation was formed, and HotBot was unleashed upon the world. This is the youngest of all of the major search services, but even at its young age, it has already caused quite a stir in the online community. According to the company: “Pronounced ‘ink-to-me’, the company name is derived from a mythological spider of the Plains Indians known for bringing culture to the people. Inktomi was founded in January 1996 by Eric Brewer, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, and Paul Gauthier, a graduate student in the computer science Ph.D. program, with a desire to commercialize the highly-effective technologies developed during their research. (” … Went online in May 1996. HotBot was owned and operated by Wired Magazine, but Wired Digital was recently purchased by Lycos. Search results are served by the Inktomi database.

MetaCrawler was developed in 1995 by Eric Selburg, a Masters student at the University of Washington (the same place where WebCrawler was developed a few years earlier). Like WebCrawler, MetaCrawler soon grew too large for its university britches and had to be moved to another site.

Ask Jeeves The idea behind Jeeves was not to create yet another search engine or directory, but to offer a question-answering service — a virtual online concierge. Accordingly, the service was named after P.G. Wodehouse’s butler character “Jeeves.”

Netscape, severely shaken and battered by Microsoft’s free release of a competing web browser (Internet Explorer), decided to concentrate on the new phenomenon of the intranet. Corporations wanted to use web technology to facilitate document sharing within their own corporate networks. These corporations also wanted to be able hide these documents from the rest of the web, yet provide their employees with the same search capabilities offered on the web. Search engine companies now had a market for their product, which initially capitalized on the advertising industry for revenue. Although there were a number of freely available search engines, corporations such as Digital Equipment and Infoseek capitalized on the lack of programmers who understood web administration and priced technical support and service into their commercial search engine packages.

Derived from a search engine developed at UC Berkeley. Inktomi was founded in 1996 by two University of California at Berkeley researchers Eric Brewer and Paul Gauthier. Working on a federally-funded project, the computer scientists developed a way to achieve supercomputing power at microcomputer prices. The company’s name, pronounced “INK-tuh-me,” is derived from a Lakota Indian legend about a trickster spider character. Inktomi is known for his ability to defeat larger adversaries through wit and cunning.

Running as a research project at Stanford University, Google has been online since late 1997. In mid 1999 recieved a $20 million dollar investment of seed capital that has helped it land the top spot on Netscapes Netcenter. Google offers some of the most unique results of any search engine. Using a system called PageRank, Google filters a large portion of the irrelevant results. It also has a builtin bias towards EDU and GOV sites that is a refreshing change from the other .com spam laden search engines.

Google is a variation of “googol,” the mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros.

While the Open Directory Project is about as bland as you can get, its original name was much more colorful. Initially called NewHoo (or GnuHoo, a tip of the hat toward the open source movement that inspired the directory), it was renamed after the directory was purchased by Netscape, bowing to pressure from Yahoo. Yahoo’s attorneys, it seemed, felt the original name was a bit too similar to its own. These days, the Open Directory is most commonly referred to by its initials, ODP.

Overture changed its name from GoTo on October 8, 2001. “Overture is an introduction, and we feel that’s what we do as a company,” said GoTo’s chief operating officer Jaynie Studenmund at the time. “We also felt it was a sophisticated enough name, in case our products expand,” a telling hint of the acquisitions of AlltheWeb and AltaVista in 2003.

Fast or is owned and operated by Fast Search & Transfer ASA technologies. It went online in mid 1998 with one of the largest databases seen at that time. One of their mainstays has been the development of Multimedia specific search engines. They have one of the largest databases of FTP urls for mp3, wav, ra, and other multimedia filetypes available. They fed not only FTP search results but also webpage results to Lycos. The company was originally called Fast Internet Transfer. FAST is used as an acronym for Fast Search & Transfer. AlltheWeb took its name from the original mission of its creator, FAST Search and Transfer of Norway — to provide the most comprehensive index of the world wide web.

Northern Light went online in the fall of 1997. NL currently has one of the largest databases on the internet in its directory by using its crawler Gulliver. This once potential star has never produced users and is generally ignored by webmasters as a source of referrals. Northern Light started in 1995 in the basement of an old mill building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A year and a half later went online in August of 1997 with 30 employees.

Teoma means “expert” in Gaelic, a reference both to the search engine’s ability to analyze the web in terms of local communities, and to the portion of its search results called “Resources: Link collections from experts and enthusiasts.”

LookSmart is a double entendre, referring both to its selective, editorially compiled directory, and as a complement to users who are savvy enough to “look smart.” LookSmart went online in Oct. 1996. It currently lists over 600,000 sites in its directory database. LookSmart provides categorized directory listings for AltaVista, HotBot and over 1000 internet access sellers (ISP’s). LookSmart was funded by Reader’s Digest until late 97 when a group of company investors bought out the RD share.