Search Engines – A History

Imagine the Internet as a huge library. In order to get information and find the books you need, the librarian can help make your life easier by suggesting the best materials for you, based on the information you provide her. Search engines are like the librarians of the Internet. They make sure you get the information you need, using the keywords you provide.

In order to do their job, search engines first execute automated programs (bots) that visit and collect information from websites. They travel from link to link (so if a webpage has no links going to it, the bots will not be able to find that page on their own), and the information they collect is then added to the “library’s” “card catalogs.”

When humans want to access this information, the “librarians” use the card catalog to decide the best results to present them. The more websites, the more information, the more cards, the more difficult to decide what are the best results. The more information, the more the librarians need to refine the rules they use to decide what is most important. You see the problem here!

Of course, Internet marketers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals want to help their clients’ websites to be at the top of the results that are chosen.

So what are the top search engines on the web today? Depending on how you define “search engine”, there are hundreds if not more of them. Some are very specialized, like CareerBuilder and GoPubMed. The top ones, however, encompass the entire public Internet. They are Google, Yahoo! and Bing.


Originally named BackRub, Google was launched in 1998 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page. It is currently reported as the most visited website as ranked by Alexa, and the number #1 search engine getting 65% of the total searches in the United States. Apart from the Google website, it also currently powers a number of huge websites like AOL (which also includes CompuServe and Netscape), Comcast Search, MySpace, etc.

So if you want visibility, it is imperative that you rank well in this search engine giant.


Yahoo! was launched by David Filo and Jerry Yang in 1994. It was the original power site, and used to be a major leader as a search engine. They saw some decline in the field of searches until they hired Marissa Meyer, a former Google employee to be their CEO. Today, Yahoo remains to be one of the top 3 search engines and it is currently ranked as the 4th most visited website globally by Alexa. As of this writing, Yahoo is up for sale. Interested buyers include Time Inc., AT&T, and Verizon.


This search engine made its debut in 2009, created by Microsoft. It was released as an upgrade to previous search engines, MSN and Microsoft Live. When Microsoft launched Bing, it doubled its share of the search market. It is reported as 26th most visited website by Alexa.

Today Bing powers many search sites such as Yahoo!, Lycos, GoodSearch,, AlltheWeb, and AltaVista.