Father of Internet Search – Alan Emtage
As of October 2012 the desktop search engine market is being led by Google with an astounding 81%, of market share for the year, followed by Yahoo!, Baidu, and Bing at approximately 7%, 6%, and 4% respectively. The search engine industry wasn’t always as lopsided, as a matter of fact, the internet wasn’t always a user friendly place. Prior to the existence of the world wide web, gathering information on the internet was difficult and in the very early 1990’s in spite of ongoing and increasing press coverage of the Internet, few people outside the Internet community had a sense of what it was used for or whom it served. It was this autonomy that spawned the need for searchable aggregated information services.
As a result, in 1990 McGill University student Alan Emtage, along with Bill Heelan, and Peter Deutsch developed “Archie,” an electronic directory service for the Internet’s anonymous File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites. By 1991, Emtage estimated that Archie servers provided pointers to around 1 million files at 900 sites, and added up to over 70 gigabytes of information and five to 10 new sites to the Archie database each week . Eventually, Deutsch and Emtage formed a startup company called Bunyip Information Systems in January, 1992 – “to support new versions of Archie and to and allow us to pursue our own particular vision of how the new crop of Internet services should all be put together. ” The creation of this startup also represented the first capitalist endeavor by a search engine firm and the success of their concept for indexing information on the internet was eventually copied and followed by other services such as; Veronica (Very Easy Rodent-Oriented Net-wide Index to Computerized Archives), Jughead (Jonzy’s Universal Gopher Hierarchy Excavation And Display), and Gopher – each of which were developed as project by university students. Eventually organizations such as Infoseek entered the search engine business with the aim of monetizing information by charging a subscription fee for services. Although Infoseek sought to monetize information, their business model would soon be supplanted by Yahoo!.
Yahoo! was started by a pair of Stanford Students, Jerry Yang and David Filo. It was the first universally successful search engine in the world, and it revolutionized the business model for the search engine industry. In just a year, and purely by word of mouth, over 20,000 people per day were using Yahoo!, amounting to some 10 million accesses per week . In late 1995 Yahoo! decided to offer advertisement space in the form of banner ads on its home page. Although they feared backlash and abandonment from users, the numbers of users as well as usage of Yahoo!’s search continued to grow. Coinciding the growth of internet usage, Yahoo! was soon backed by Sequoia capital and Yahoo! was well on its way to solidifying its position in the industry as the search engine of choice throughout the mid to late 90’s.
On the heels of Yahoo!’s success, more Stanford University students decided to enter the search engine market and developed the Excite search engine. Although Excite competed with Yahoo! in the growing market, they were never able to distinguish themselves. By the late 1990’s the industry was filled with the likes search engines vying for a spot in the industry this included companies such as, Alta Vista, InfoSeek, WebCrawler, HotBot, GoTo, Lycos and Snap. During the late 90’s Microsoft even saw success with its MSN portal for search, and by 1999 it had reached the #3 spot in search referrals. Although Microsoft and Yahoo! were now household names, there was one formidable competitor in the industry on their heels – Google.
Yet again, Google was another search engine that was developed by Stanford University students. These students, Sergi Brin and Larry Page, created a search engine differed from the rest of the pack. Instead of banner ads and portals that were crammed with information to distract the user from obtaining search results, Google focsed on allowing the user to access information without intrusion by having a simple interface. Additionally, Google’s system allowed for more relevant search results that promoted sites democratically – those sites that had the most click-throughs along with inbound links from other content related sites found themselves ranked higher in the search results.
By the mid-90’s Yahoo!’s dominance in the search engine market began to recede and Google began solidifying its position as the industry leader. In 2004, Google delivered a direct blow to Yahoo! and Microsoft with its Gmail service, by offering more email space and more intuitive features, such as email search that allowed users to search within all the messages they’d ever sent and grouping of email conversations. According to a May 2006 comScore report, Google held 62% of the global search traffic and was generating 98% of its revenues from search advertisements along with profit margins of more than 60% . In addition in 2006, Google acquired YouTube for approximately $1.65B USD thus increasing its daily search usage.
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