Search Engine Basics
Archie wasn’t actually a search engine like those that you use today. But at the time, it was a program
many Internet users were happy to have. The program basically downloaded directory listings for all
of the files that were stored on anonymous FTP sites in a given network of computers. Those listings
were then plugged into a searchable database of web sites.
The search capabilities of Archie weren’t as fancy as the natural language capabilities you’ll find in
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files, making them easier to locate.
In 1991, however, another student named Mark McCahill, at the University of Minnesota, decided
that if you could search for files on the Internet, then surely you could also search plain text for
specific references in the files. Because no such application existed, he created Gopher, a program
that indexed the plain-text documents that later became the first web sites on the public Internet.
With the creation of Gopher, there also needed to be programs that could find references within
the indexes that Gopher created, and so Archie’s pals finally rejoined him. Veronica (Very Easy
Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives) and Jughead (Jonzy’s Universal
Gopher Hierarchy Excavation and Display) were created to search the files that were stored in
the Gopher Index System.
Both of these programs worked in essentially the same way, allowing users to search the indexed
information by keyword.
From there, search as you know it began to mature. The first real search engine, in the form that we
know search engines today, didn’t come into being until 1993. It was developed by Matthew Gray,
and it was called Wandex. Wandex was the first program to both index and search the index of
pages on the Web. This technology was the first program to crawl the Web, and later became the
basis for all search crawlers. And from there, search engines took on a life of their own. From 1993
to 1998, the major search engines that you’re probably familiar with today were created:
_ Excite — 1993
_ Yahoo! — 1994
_ Web Crawler — 1994
_ Lycos — 1994
_ Infoseek — 1995
_ AltaVista — 1995
_ Inktomi — 1996
_ Ask Jeeves — 1997
_ Google — 1997
_ MSN Search — 1998
Today, search engines are sophisticated programs, many of which allow you to search all manner of
files and documents using the same words and phrases you would use in everyday conversations.
It’s hard to believe that the concept of a search engine is just over 15 years old. Especially considering
what you can use one to find these days!
Jerri L. Ledford
Jerri L. Ledford