If you were online in the mid 90’s, there is no doubt that you had a veritable cornucopia of search engines to choose from. In my teens it all started with America Online and the audibly cringing dial-up modem.
Soon after AOL, emerged Yahoo!, as well as, many other search engines whose main goal was to provide quick answers to your questions in the form of written info, music downloads, or pictures. Soon we had a dozen widely used search engines at our disposal with seemingly identical results.
So, what did happen to all the other search engines and where have they gone?
4. AltaVista: Bowing to the master
Created in Palo Alta, CA, AltaVista was ahead of the curve when it arrived in the Christmas season of 1995. They used a multi-threaded crawler called “Scooter” that could cover many more webpages than previously conceived and had advanced back-end search capabilities.
In one short year, AltaVista became the top search engine and provided search results for Yahoo!, but sadly that’s where their success ended. Two years later, the developers of AltaVista was sold to Compaq who redesigned it as a web portal in an attempt to compete with the rising Yahoo!
It was then sold to Overture Services who was eventually purchased by Yahoo! Today, if you type in AltaVista.com you are taken to the Yahoo! Search page.
3. Excite: From modesty to cluster
Excite launched in 1995 thanks to several Stanford graduates and an $80,000 grant from International Data Group. Excite started out small with a humble little search engine that went public with two million shares in 1997. Intuit, the creators of TurboTax and Quicken, bought 19% of the company making everyone think this was the site to watch.
However, by the 21st century, Excite began their slow decline into mediocrity after a merger with @Home Networks which spawned [email protected] Over the next couple of years they lost more and more users and focused on charity in a failed attempt to appeal to the masses.
Today, Excite looks less like a search engine and more like if Yellowbook, Craigslist, and Yahoo! had a baby; just a cluster of too much information on one page.
2. Ask Jeeves: No, “Ask” someone else
Founded in 1996 in Berkeley, CA, Ask Jeeves was a search engine with a hook. People seemed to love the idea of not only putting in a search topic, but actually asking a wise butler their question and having it answered in various ways. There was no doubt that the two creators, Garrett Gruener and David Warthen, were eccentric geniuses with a sense of humor.
Unfortunately, everyone has to grow up and in 2005 they phased out Jeeves and we were left with Ask.com. Five years later they deleted any cleverness that was left and now all we have is a single search bar; no weather, no date, and no how do ya do?
1. Lycos & Dogpile: Attack of the clones
Back in the 20th century, Lycos & Dogpile were the search engines you went to when the top ones didn’t return any results for your obscure searches. Dogpile was a whimsical place to find happy artwork as you found what you were looking for when others couldn’t. Lycos was one of the first, being formed in 1994, thanks to a venture capital of over $2 million; they helped start a useful service still used today.
Today, these two once appreciated search engines are more like outdated versions of more successful sites. Dogpile still has the happy little dog playing with a ball on the homepage, but sadly their results work off of Yahoo! Lycos, on the other hand, has a layout that screams Wikipedia thanks to its mini biography on the right side of the screen. It might still be successful if it weren’t for massive amounts of complaints, failure to answer said complaints, and an F rating by the Boston Better Business Bureau.