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Classic Search Engines PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Wray   
Thursday, 15 January 2009 12:22

When I was a teenager, the Web was just coming into it's own. This was the 90s. Before Wikipedia, eBay, and Facebook. Even before Google.


I first experienced the World Wide Web when I was in the 8th grade. 1995. I was at a friends house, and they had a white box 486. I was always excited at that age to use any computer, though most all of that experience was had in the local public school system, and on rare occasion the local public library. I had used Commodores, Tandy "CoCo"s, and even an Apple IIGS, but it wasn't until Jr. High I experienced the PC.


How it was then: 1995-1996

I can recall what were the popular search engines of the time, at least the ones known to the family who owned that 486: Webcrawler, Yahoo, and Excite. Thanks to an awesome web archive, called "The Internet Wayback Machine", we can see what these sites look liked back in 1996:


Yahoo.com, Oct 17, 1996 (2 months after I got my first ever computer!)
In the circles I was part of, Yahoo! was seemingly the most accepted of the search engines. Everyone knew about it, and everyone used it. . Yahoo was known for being straight to the point, detailed and accurate search results, and few ads. Of course, I think you'll notice that's the case with all the sites I show here today...lack of ads EVERYWHERE. When there were ads, they were usually in the form of the evil pop-up. Founded in January 1994 by David Filo and Jerry Yang, it was incorporated on March 1, 1995.

Excite.com, Oct 22, 1996
Excite was both a dot-com era search engine and Internet Portal. Founded as Architext in 1994 by six Stanford University students, it was formally launched as Excite in December 1995. Excite nearly went belly up in 1998, and was purchased by @home network in 1999.
webcrawler.com, Oct 25, 1996
Webcrawler was pretty much the site you went to when Yahoo couldn't find what you were looking for. By using "robots" to catalog URLs (much the same way Google does now), they often had pages that no other search site had indexed. Launched on April 20, 1994, It was purchased by AOL in 1995, who in turn sold it to Excite in 1997. When the original Excite went bankrupt, InfoSpace acquired the site. It was the first Web Search Engine to provide full text search.

Where are they now?


Yahoo.com, well, everybody knows they're still around. At times they seem to be fighting for their life, with rumor upon rumor of merger with everyone from Microsoft to Google.  Yahoo is presently (1/15/2009) the #1 most visited site on the web, according to alexa.com, a leading internet traffic monitoring firm.



Excite is apparently still online, though I have to admit even I was suprised. I haven't visted Excite since, well, the 90s! Excite's traffic rank according to alexa aren't any stronger over time, and have been steadily falling since September 2007.The site is presently rated in the traffic rank at 1,723.



Webcrawler is sort of still with us, if only in name. Still owned by InfoSpace, the company that purchased it from the failing Excite.com in 2001 after the dot-com bubble blew up, it was recently repositioned as a metaserach engine that uses multiple other search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Live Search and others.) It orignally was a separate serach engine with it's own database.


These search engines were certainly icons of the dot-com era.