Search engines existed even before the Internet age, but they had not been called so. If you open a reference book at the back, you usually find an index there, and this index is nothing else than what a search engine does: It looks for every word where it appears in the document. The first search engine in our history of search engines are the so-called concordances of the Bible, created by diligent monks from the Bible. Based on a Bible concordance, they wanted to prove that the Old and New Testaments came from the same God, hence the name concordance from the Latin concordia, unity. Concordances were later a pastime for rich people who in their spare time made concordances of Shakespeare’s or Poe’s works. One of the last manually created concordances was completed in the 1960s, but it’s a shame that computers were already able to do the same job in minutes at that time instead of decades.
Text retrieval from documents became large with computers, because even here it was a matter of obtaining information from electronic document collections. Many basic principles emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, for example TF-IDF.
The first search engines before the WWW were Gopher and WAIS, which made it possible to search documents and files across multiple Internet servers. With the WWW the first search engines were created, which look at least similar to today’s search engines, like for example:
- web crawler
Many of these search engines suffered from the fact that the operators, in search of financing possibilities, exchanged the minimalistic masks of the search engines for interfaces full of functions, each search engine suddenly wanted to be a portal, which was partly referred to as “portalitis”. Google therefore had an easy game, because it did not suffer from portalitis on the one hand, and on the other hand it delivered significantly better results due to the PageRank algorithm.
Next section: Use of search engines