It was 1998 when Google officially launched with its mission to improve the quality and relevance of search results.

The history of the search engine demonstrates that you don’t have to be first to market to be the best


Sometimes it feels as though Google knows what I’m looking for and need before I do. Today, Google is incredibly clever and intuitive in delivering relevant search results no matter how obscure I try to be with my search query.

Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving and as a digital marketing consultant it is my job to keep up to date with Google’s developments and trends in order to maintain high search result rankings for my small business clients.

It may surprise you to know that Google wasn’t the first search engine and in fact was relatively late to launch.

So, where did it all begin for search engines?

Well depending on your viewpoint you could argue that Archie was the first search engine in 1990. You can also find articles supporting the view that the history of the search engine actually started at Cornell University in the 1960s.

However, Tim Berners-Lee launched the first website in 1991 and by 1993 Infoseek had spotted there was an opportunity to sell advertising on a cost per thousand impressions metric to website owners to help their websites be found. This in my opinion was the first search engine.

Not long after the launch of Infoseek in 1993, Lycos was created as a university project and latterly was the first search engine to be commercially successful where in 1999 it was the most used search engine in the world.

A year later in 1994, Yahoo was launched as a directory which was closely followed by WebCrawler which was the first search engine to use a crawler to index pages. Yahoo was the first search engine to be recognised as a global giant overtaking Lycos at a time of huge growth in search traffic. AltaVista was launch in 1995 and soon became a global leader in terms of search volumes, just behind Yahoo. Whilst there were other search engines which launched around this time, such as Excite and Hotbot, it was in 1996 that Google started as a project by Stanford students Larry Page and Sergey Bin. Before Google, search engines ranked websites on the number of times the searched keyword appeared on a webpage. For the first time, Google considered other factors such as the number of links a webpage has from other websites and based on this, ranked each page in importance. This strategy was the beginnings of what propelled Google to be the world’s most successful search engine.

1996 also saw AskJeeves (later renamed Ask) launch which differentiated itself through encouraging searchers to ask questions and use everyday language to perform searches. In 1998 MSN Search was launched by Microsoft which in 2009 was rebranded to Bing and included a number of new features such as ‘autosuggest’.

It was 1998 when Google officially launched with its mission to improve the quality and relevance of search results.

2002 saw Google’s first algorithm change which today we know happens on a daily basis in order to maintain high quality and relevant search results.

In 2008, DuckDuckGo was launched which is a search engine that doesn’t track users or collect personal information such as IP addresses and inputted search terms. Their strategy is focused on people’s increasing concern over online privacy.

In conclusion, the history of the search engine is interesting as it perfectly demonstrates that although Google wasn’t the first to recognise the opportunity, Google were the first to recognise what users wanted from a search engine. The reason Google continues to be successful is because the company has been able to develop its search engine in line with changing user requirements, such as ranking websites on security and for working on smartphones whilst maintaining the relevance of its search results.