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back to article Search engines we have known ... before Google crushed them

Remember when the internet was young, moving your bulky monitor was a two-person job and 1.4MB disks didn't look like a typo? Back then (most) people didn't have to choose which web search engine they were going to use: it came prepared by the operating system maker, such as Microsoft and MSN Search, or the folks you got your …

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No love for DogPile?

Maybe not.

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Re: No love for DogPile?

My thoughts precisely. While not a search engine in itself, it aggregated results from all the other popular engines which was more likely to throw up what you were looking for. I'm trying to remember the name of the tech-search engine it also referenced, which was the best for getting results for programming related enquiries...

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Re: No love for DogPile?

Dogpile was always my primary choice for searches, still appears to be around but afraid I jumped onto to google wagon with many others.

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Re: No love for DogPile?

Maybe if they'd chosen a better name? When I think of the words "Dog" and "Pile" together, what comes to mind is a brown steaming mess best avoided.

Granted, that may well describe much of the internet, but it doesn't appeal as a bookmark.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No love for DogPile?

With that name, you know the founders had low expectations.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No love for DogPile?

The interesting thing about DogPile (which still exists) is that for a while they had a "search spy" feature where you could see what people searched for recently.

Unfortunately they got rid of it. I'm not sure exactly why, but I suspect it was either because spammers started "searching" for things just to make them show up, or because there would invariably be several search for bizarre and/or illegal porn in there.

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What about 'mamma' - the mother of all search engines :-D That was the default one we used at school on Netscape Navigator.

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Ru

Like dogpile and metacrawler, et al, wasn't Mamma a meta search engine? My memory is hazy on the matter. I guess the article was only about primary search engines.

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I think you are right actually, Must have been a pretty early one.

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WTF?

AltaVista.digital.com

There was a while where you had to go to altavista.digital.com, as the altavista.com site was, well, a bit NSFW.

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Re: AltaVista.digital.com

And typos were dangerous back then. Anyone else remember webcralwer.com?

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Headmaster

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

hehe.

reminds me of my time in the early days at BT Laboratories in Martlesham, Suffolk.

Around the same time, it decided to rename itself to Adastral Park. A contractor got wind of it, and registered adastralpark.com and tried to sell it to BT. BT refused and until recently it was a NSFW swingers site.

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Re: AltaVista.digital.com

I'd forgotten about that. Thanks for the memory :)

I visited altavista.com a few times at work and was left desperately scrambling for ALT-F4.

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Re: AltaVista.digital.com

Yup, Altavista was pretty much guaranteed to give you 5 porn links in the top 10, no matter what you were searching for. If you added "-sex" to the search, you might get a better set of results, but it wasn't great. Unfortunately, it was still one of the better search engines at the time until Google raised the bar on search quality.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

I remember a work colleague accidentally typing yahooo.com .....

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Angel

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

Frantic calls to the firewall log team when someone realised they has mistyped hotbot.com as hotboy.com

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Unhappy

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

>And typos were dangerous back then. Anyone else remember webcralwer.com?

All roads led to goatse. [Shiver]

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

There was a while where you had to go to altavista.digital.com, as the altavista.com site was, well, a bit NSFW.

Wasn't the NSFW site astalavista.com?

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Re: AltaVista.digital.com

AC posits: Wasn't the NSFW site astalavista.com?

no, IIRC, astalavista was a warez 'crack' site. you could find serial numbers and cracks for most any commercial software.... it was a bit porny around the edges, perhaps.

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Re: AltaVista.digital.com

"Wasn't the NSFW site astalavista.com?"

No. I am aware of astalavista as a late 90s 'crackz' site, but mid 90s altavista.com was not registered by digital for a while

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

No please tell.

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Happy

Re: AltaVista.digital.com

After the porn sites started dropping whole dictionaries in their meta tags to show up on search results it became a lot easier to avoid them in search results.

I think I started adding

-aardvark -xylophone

to all of my none-aardvark-and-xylophone related searches

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That Google story is amazing

Given that a lot of their value falls in decisions they could only make as a small outfit starting from scratch, the most likely scenario if Excite had bought would be them screwing it up and noone ever knowing Google existed.

Whatever anyone's thoughts on Google a world without them is hard to imagine.

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Facepalm

Re: That Google story is amazing

$220,000,000,000 / $750,000 = $293,333 returned per dollar invested, over 13 years.... which is rather better than the average savings account.

I think in the 'wounder!' stakes this comfortably beats the story of the record exec who turned down the Beatles.

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Windows

Wot no WWWW?

The first vaguely useful effort I can recall

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Re: Wot no WWWW?

Quite - the World Wide Web Worm was revolutionary in its day. Not sure if it was the first although it was the first I was aware of but a major omission.

The role of the early search engines in providing functionality to the web would be more interesting though. Still seems forgotten in many of the semantic web debates today.

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When I first started using the Interwebs, Compuserve was my initial introduction to the search engine.

After that, Yahoo became my fav, so much so that even now I still using ping www.yahoo.com as part of my testing regime (although its a very small an unimportant part nowadays).

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Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

Just for fun, upvote if you used hotbot at any time :)

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xyz

Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

Used to love hotbot. It was miles ahead of anything until Google hoved into view.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

"Used to love hotbot.com"

...or as it was sometimes mistyped to the amusement of the firewall team - hotboy,com

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Unhappy

Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

I was also wondering why Hotbot wasnt mentioned...

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Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

poor old HotBot great then when LookSmart did the results, then 1999 it fell apart that changed. For myself a friend pointed out Google, 13 years later still the one I choose

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Boffin

Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

Indeed. Reading this, I shed a tear because it brought back memories of my schooldays, when connecting to the internet requires dialing a phone number with a modem, video streaming meant watching 160x120, 15fps, 8bit color videos of blurry quality with AM radio quality audio with RealPlayer (which wasn't a problem given that the average video resolution at that time was 800x600), and best of all, there was no such thing as internet censorship and there's no stupid messages telling you that you can't view a video because you're not in a particular country. Those were the days.

The thing I'd do to have the latter two back today :'(

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Altavista could have been Google

Altavista died a death because its search results became so polluted with noise that it was rendered effectively useless. Websites would show several thousand keywords into meta data or hidden text and appear at the top of the search results regardless of their relevance. On top of that Altavista had a really crappy site and only showed a handful of results at a time.

That's why Google squashed it. It was able to deliver relevant results quickly and was to resist site's attempts to boost their ratings with meta data.

Bing is the only other search engine which comes anywhere close to that and these days either of them delivers decent results.

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Re: Altavista could have been Google

Altavista was Google. There just weren't many of us around then - so it was a much smaller Google.

I can still remember Compaq fucking it up... the screencaptures even brought back the horrible sinking feeling that accompanied the "oh no, it's gone forever" I thought when their "portal" imposter loaded. That's when the "noise" was introduced. It was never usable again :o(

I idly wondered at the time who'd bought it and why they were buggering it up. I'd never made the connection with the Digital/Compaq thing! The foul hand of Compaq is all too obvious with hindsight.

If Compaq had never got their claws into AltaVista I'm sure it'd still be our "Google". Google just happened to pop up at the right moment to fill the gap.

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Unhappy

Re: I can still remember Compaq fucking it up

..me, too: I was a huge AltaVista fan when it came out, and remember with some sadness it changing from the simple search engine to a "portal" that in the days of dial-up took minutes to load.. causing a jump to the wonderfully simple "just a search box" and the word "google"

Back then, though, you'd try out all the different engines as they'd be returning different results, and meta-search engines had some real utility; nowadays, they're pretty much all in google, it's more a question of ranking.

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Re: Altavista could have been Google

"Altavista was Google. There just weren't many of us around then - so it was a much smaller Google."

I realise it was predominant at the time and I used it extensively myself. But as such I was able to witness it's many shortcomings including its non-existent efforts to fight noise from malicious sites padding themselves out with keywords. So when Google turned up and *did* return relevant search results, and faster too, nobody really needed much excuse to jump ship. Google came predominant simply because the competition was so crap.

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Stop

Re: Altavista could have been Google

Altavista did introduce the short-lived "raging.com" service which kept the minimalist search-only page layout, but it died a death with the rest of Altavista in the end.

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Re: Altavista could have been Google

More than that, Altavista's results were polluted by paid-for entries, so that you couldn't tell whether it was returning genuine ranked results or advertising. One of Google's biggest selling points was that, yes, it delivered paid results, but it made it very clear which they were.

Still, babelfish.altavista.com lived usefully long after its mother site had become irrelevant. And the nod to Douglas Adams was a nice touch.

[D'oh - from Altavista, who could have done so much better]

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Oh my god, those designs. How I don't miss the heady days of late 1990's websites.

Didn't spot any mention of metaspy - a funny little site where you could view what people were currently searching for. Lets just say a lot of innocence was lost...

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You beat me to it. Metaspy wiled away a few otherwise empty hours on a quiet nightshift. There were some spectacularly odd searches initiated a few time zones to the West of the UK.

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Pamela Anderson was near the top of the list at times, IIRC.

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Anonymous Coward

> Oh my god, those designs. How I don't miss the heady days of late 1990's websites.

Simple bandwidth-friendly designs devoid of Flash and Javascript... Oh, the humanity!

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Anonymous Coward

The problem of the designs of the time was BLINK. In some ways, it was worse than flash.

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BLINK tag.. it was bad, but all the blinking gif images. I can't even find that image of the needle that had a blinking head that was so very common back in those day.

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And all the 'under construction' gifs.

Then there's the ultimate horror.. the marquee tag.

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Devil

Hey, I can top that...

The problem of the designs of the time was BLINK. In some ways, it was worse than flash.

The day that tiled background graphics were invented was a signpost on the road to Hell.

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