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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  1. Alan Bourke

    No love for DogPile?

    Maybe not.

    1. Andrew Moore

      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...

    2. DanBowmanLeBeau
      Thumb Up

      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.

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      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.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No love for DogPile?

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

    5. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  2. vmistery

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

    1. 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.

      1. vmistery

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

  3. Anonymous Coward

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

    1. dogged
      Thumb Up


      And typos were dangerous back then. Anyone else remember

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


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

      2. Anonymous Coward


        Frantic calls to the firewall log team when someone realised they has mistyped as

      3. asdf


        >And typos were dangerous back then. Anyone else remember

        All roads led to goatse. [Shiver]

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        No please tell.

    2. stu 4



      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 and tried to sell it to BT. BT refused and until recently it was a NSFW swingers site.

    3. Richard Wharram


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

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

      1. John Riddoch


        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.

        1. Justicesays


          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

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


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

      Wasn't the NSFW site

      1. pierce


        AC posits: Wasn't the NSFW site

        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.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Wasn't the NSFW site"

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

  4. Bernard

    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.

    1. fridaynightsmoke

      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.

  5. Androgynous Crackwhore

    Wot no WWWW?

    The first vaguely useful effort I can recall

    1. chrisf1

      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.

  6. 1Rafayal

    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 as part of my testing regime (although its a very small an unimportant part nowadays).

  7. Martin Huizing
    Thumb Up

    Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

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

    1. xyz Silver badge

      Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

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

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

        "Used to love"

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

    2. Dixie Nourmous

      Re: Trip down memory lane, yes indeed!

      I was also wondering why Hotbot wasnt mentioned...

      1. tony trolle

        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

        1. RAMChYLD

          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 :'(

  8. DrXym

    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.

    1. Androgynous Crackwhore

      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.

      1. philbo

        Re: I can still remember Compaq fucking it up, 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.

      2. DrXym

        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.

      3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Altavista could have been Google

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

    2. Jon Green

      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, 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]

  9. Z-Eden

    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...

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      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.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

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

        1. pixl97

          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.

          1. TonyHoyle

            And all the 'under construction' gifs.

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

        2. Mike Flugennock

          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.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Magellan ?

    Or that search engine aggregator Copernic ?

  11. El Presidente

    Why no mention of Northern Light?

    "From its founding in 1996 until January 2002, Northern Light operated a Web search engine for public use. During this time period it also developed an enterprise offering of private custom search engines that it built for large corporate clients and marketed under the trade name SinglePoint. In 2002, Northern Light discontinued its public search engine and was acquired by an enterprise software company. In 2003, an employee group bought the company from its parent and it is still employee-owned as of 2010"

    1. Richard IV

      Re: Why no mention of Northern Light?

      Gah! Ninja'd!

    2. Charles Calthrop

      Re: Why no mention of Northern Light?

      I loved Northern Light, it was waay ahead of all the rest with its semantic groupings. Eg search string 'jersey', results grouped into 'Island', 'Jumper' and 'Potatoes'

  12. Richard IV

    Anyone remember 10 years or so back when Northern Light was a public search engine and not a fancy dan research portal thingy?

    It had this lovely context-aware refinement system so that a search for Dates would suggest adding filters for fruit, calendars or going out and the like. This narrowed the search results seriously quickly rather than seeing it as an opportunity to serve up more adverts. The only search engine I've ever found to be truly intuitive. I was gutted when they went corporate intranet only.

    1. El Presidente

      Northern Light

      Was my search engine of choice, mainly because all the others served up near identical crap results.

  13. Joe K

    Excellent little WTF bit.

    That last sentence........robot fighting league? Combat-focused bar & grill?

    OK, we need more info on this.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: Excellent little WTF bit.

      That last sentence........robot fighting league? Combat-focused bar & grill?

      Ugh, cripes... robot fighting is so goddamn' '90s, man. "Wow, I'm so edgy, I've got a bar'n'grill with a robot fighting pit in 2012..."

      Food probably sucks there, too.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are two reasons why everyone switched to Google

    1. clean, simple, uncluttered interface

    2. better search results

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: There are two reasons why everyone switched to Google

      I agree on "clean, simple, uncluttered interface". I suppose "better search results" could be true too, but I just wonder how long they are internally strong enough to remain a "clean, simple, uncluttered interface". The force to change things for the "better" and more "modern" is huge within any company.

    2. henchan

      Re: There are two reasons why everyone switched to Google

      Don't forget speed. Google themselves still deem it the most important "feature" of any application.

      Speed was partly a corollary of uncluttered interface, I guess. But I remember the very first time I used Google. I understood web protocols, but I felt Google must be using some kind of voodoo to return relevant results in the very instant that I hit Return. Turns out it was mostly down to Ajax and their distributed back-end, which were innovations at the time.

  15. Jonesy

    I was fully expecting Yahoo to be on that list......I seem to recall sometime around 1999 that we used to Yahoo! things.

    1. WK

      Well, Yahoo haven't had their own search engine for years. Microsoft pay them to use Bing search results. In return, Yahoo pass user stats back to MS to help with targeted advertising.

    2. Ilgaz

      Yahoo was always a portal/utility

      Yahoo never took search too seriously and never insisted on its own engine when something better exists.

      Yahoo always cared about mail, news and the (still) excellent "my Yahoo".

      Altavista engine mentioned,I also remember them using google for a while. Now they use Bing engine.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


      Yahoo! did not start out as an index-based search engine. Initially, it offered something no one else had at the time - a Web index organized by a comprehensive information model and built by human editors. You could search by terms, but you could also simply navigate the hierarchy of the information model.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Search engines we have known ... before Google did it properly

    Fixed it for ya....

  17. Lamont Cranston

    No Yahoo!?

    Don't tell me it's still going?

  18. mr_jrt

    No love for My engine of choice before I was recommended Google in 2000.

    1. Simon_E

      It rings a faint bell

      ...and didn't it have a decidedly NSFW counterpart?

      The muckier parts of my brain want to have been, but that seems a bit too obvious.

  19. JDX Gold badge

    I miss AskJeeves.

    1. Captain Scarlet


      I actually liked the search as asking questions would get very accurate results compared to Lycos, once they changed and became search only it became the same as everyone else.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Jeeves Shmeeves!

      you must be joking. Ask Jeeves was the absolute shittiest search engine ever:

      YOU: How do you change the gearbox oil on a Land Rover?

      JEEVES: I know where to buy Land Rover

      YOU: Give me a recipe for homebrew cider?

      JEEVES: I know where to buy recipe

      YOU: What is the distance between Earth and Mars?

      JEEVES: I know where to buy earth

      YOU: How do I tell if I have Bubonic Plague?

      JEEVES: I know where to buy Bubonic Plague


      1. Captain Scarlet

        Re: Jeeves Shmeeves!

        This must have been when they were spamming the crapware bars and agreed I missed the period where they were desperatly trying to push you to install adware or buy stuff.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What no HotBot. OMG still exists!

    1. Captain Scarlet

      Re: Hotbot

      Dear lord what on earth have they done to Hotbot, checked it last year and stil had the original theme.

      Although agreed I am surprised Hotbot isnt in this article even though Lycos brought them out.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hotbot

      Does still exist too? NSFW if it does.

  21. Martin Maisey


    Probably worth pointing out another important alumnus of Excite - Doug Cutting, who went on to write the initial version of Lucene (probably the leading open source search engine), moved to Yahoo, and while there co-wrote the initial version of Hadoop.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember archie?

    It was a command line client that queried archie servers to find stuff on ftp sites. I don't know if it used a crawler system or the data was entered manually but it worked quite well for the time.

    1. Amonynous

      Re: Anyone remember archie?

      Yes, that and Gopher, and WAIS and a spiral bound notebook full of IP addresses scrawled in Biro. I remember when all this was fields.. text fields that is.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Anyone remember archie?

        There were also the Gopher search engines Veronica and Jughead.

        Gopher itself wasn't a search engine - it was a hypertext description and retrieval protocol, more or less analogous to HTTP. It has some associated search mechanisms (eg CCSO directories), but it really shouldn't be on this list.

        WAIS was also used as a search engine for Gopher-hosted resources. Veronica only indexed document titles; WAIS could be used for ful-text indexing. WAIS was quite popular with university libraries, at least in my experience.

        One nice thing about Archie+FTP, or Veronica+Gopher, is that they're very lightweight and simple protocols that are often trivial to script. I wrote plenty of ad hoc scripts using those protocols back in the day to find and fetch particular resources.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone remember archie?

      One if things pirates abused for mp3/avi. MPAA/ rec. Ass. Of America gave nightmare to admins/owners pressuring them not to include. mp3, a friend of mine said "so they will rename it to. Txt or use wild cards".

    3. Jon Green

      Re: Anyone remember archie?

      Yep, archie+gopher was sooo useful, before the Web!

      What always amazed me at the time was that it was quicker to pull down open source tarballs from Japanese universities than from British sources. And cooler, of course.

    4. Adrian Harvey

      Re: Anyone remember archie?

      Particularly because the Australian archie server was named and was therefore one of the shortest things you could type if you wanted a test ping to the Internet.... Used it for that way after I stopped using Archie for search...

  23. John Deeb


    One of the interesting activities of AltaVista, and giving it more of a Google predecessor feel were its SDK and turnkey local search solutions. I remember building our own XML datastore which the (licended) AltaVista SDK engine and API which could search and provide search results for our local site. There was nothing like it at the time performance wise since one could construct complex but extremely fast queries depending on used DTD. You could also buy AltaVista in a box if memory serves and run your own complex intranet search without programming anything at all.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: SDK

      No you mention it I think I tried a demo version of the AltaVista local search software.

      It looked good but I just didn't have enough data lying around at the time.

  24. tommitytom


    "or the folks you got your broadband from" - back in those days I was on 33.6k dial-up, son.

    1. Ian 5

      Re: hmmm

      Luxury! 28Kbps for us proles...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hmmm

        Bloody luxury. I had a 300 baud acoustic modem. It was two rubber rings and you plugged the headset of a regular Bakelite phone into it.

        1. Mike Flugennock

          Re: hmmm

          Bloody luxury. I had a 300 baud acoustic modem. It was two rubber rings and you plugged the headset of a regular Bakelite phone into it.

          There were thirty-seven of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road. Our father used to get us up at three o'clock in the morning and make us lick the road clean with our tongues. Then, he would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

          But, if you tried to tell the youth of today that, they'd never believe you.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hmmm

      56k for me, though more often than not you were only get about 48k of that!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: hmmm

        Nildram used to have some modems in their bank that negotiated your 33kbps modem down to 2400bps. Disconnect - wait a few minutes - and hope someone else had then picked that one up.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: hmmm

      In a reverse from the normal "mine's bigger than yours," the article brought to mind sending email to a WAIS server for search info over a 2400baud modem circa 1989/90. A few mins later the results would arrive. Hard to think how we used the internet before it became "the web."

  25. Imsimil Berati-Lahn

    Another notable omission

    Surprised Northern Light didn't get a mention...

    Meh well.

  26. stucs201

    When I were a lad...

    ...I remember when all we had were gopher, archie and veronica.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    haven't you left out

    coolwebsearch....always found on computers accessible by teenagers

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah the good old days gone by...

    Signing up for your first ISP, obtaining your first user login ID.

    Hearing your dialup modem sing its tune when you connect.

    Experimenting with a Geocities personal page.

    Netscape Navigator was the de facto, dominant browser.

    Signing up for your first webmail account, Rocketmail, then Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.

    Using ICQ for instant messaging, watching the flower petals blink.

    Games came in floppy diskettes.

    Game copy protection was to refer to a game manual and enter some password from a page/paragraph.

    16Mb RAM on your computer was something to be envied.

    A 2Gb hard disk was awesome.

    A screen filter for your CRT monitor to protect your eyes.

    1. Locky

      Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

      2Gb? I remember being told by my lecturers that there was no way I would ever fill my 170mb drive

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

        The first sealed head/disk assembly I saw was 80Mb (and roughly the size of a washing machine). Before that disk platters could be lifted out of disk drives. I've still got the disk, extracted from the plastic cassette, that stored just over one Megabyte. It became obsolete about the time I started working with computers.

        Any, er, retreat, on 1Mb disks? (I mean disks, not 180kb floppies! )

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

          "Any, er, retreat, on 1Mb disks? (I mean disks, not 180kb floppies! )"

          Not sure about the capacity of drums in second/third generation machines. Wonder if a second generation KDF9 fixed disk was more than 1MB capacity? It had a normal set of moving heads - plus a set of fixed heads for "very fast" special data access.

          The 1970 System 4 sealed fixed disk was a massive 600MB. It had two stacks of 300MB side by side. The very large head actuators were linked so they moved in opposite directions at the same time to balance the motion forces. The unit weighed 1.5tonnes and had water cooled bearings. In my mind's eye it was about 2+ metres high, 3 metres wide, and 1+metres deep. The platters were at least half a metre in diameter - and a head crash would produce a neat 25mm bright ring against the brown of the oxide. Archiving the data to magnetic tape, with a clever bit of command chaining, took 8 hours.

        2. Amorous Cowherder

          Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

          "Before that disk platters could be lifted out of disk drives."

          I remember working on ICL System 25's back around 1992, we had the big portable stack platters you lifted out, 60MB I think they held over 4 platters. When one got corrupt I managed to snag it and it's safely stored up in my loft in my "Historical IT Crap Museum", ha ha!

    2. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

      "A screen filter for your CRT monitor to protect your eyes." - Those bloody awful things that looked like fly-screens you see on doors in films about the US Midwest!

      "16Mb RAM on your computer was something to be envied." - As penniless student that would have been the dog's wotnots! 4MB and be very thankful! Ditto 2GB HD, I was over the moon when I got my first 100MB+ HD!

      The joy of pushing your video card all the way up to 256 colours at 1024x768 with drivers for Windows 3 you had to spend 30 minutes downloading from a manufacturer's BBS.

      Logging into remote university FTP sites as they almost always had decent pirate software available in the public directories! Then catching some nasty virus from said software and spending the day cleaning your machine, LOL!

      Messing about with memory manager TSRs to get just a few more KB out of the lower memory ranges to run that hefty DTP package or game.

      Simple days and happier times.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

        "Games came in floppy diskettes."

        Is that 8 inch - or the modern 5.25 inch?

        "Game copy protection was to refer to a game manual and enter some password from a page/paragraph."

        Remember the program installs that wrote onto the floppy? You had to remember to do an uninstall with the floppy before you could install it again.

        "16Mb RAM on your computer was something to be envied.

        That was an unimaginable RAM size until when - late 1990s? Chips or SIMMs were reckoned in KB increments.

        "A 2Gb hard disk was awesome."

        A 20mb hard disk was enormous until after about 1990.

        I still have trouble doing the mental gear shifts for the correct multiplier on RAM, hard disk, cpu, or network speeds. Is it K, M, G, T?

        1. Wensleydale Cheese

          Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

          "16Mb RAM on your computer was something to be envied.

          That was an unimaginable RAM size until when - late 1990s? Chips or SIMMs were reckoned in KB increments.

          Got my first 64MB PC in 1997. With 2GB disk, decent monitor, CD drive, audio card, NT4, Office and a DAT drive it came to about £4K.

          And it still didn't have a NIC :-)

    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

      "A 2Gb hard disk was awesome."

      I remember getting my first 2GB disk and wondering how on earth I was going to fill it. The first quarter got dedicated to a full backup of my laptop and the rest only lasted about 9 months

  29. fourThirty


    ...Melissa Joan Hart

    1. Kris Akabusi

      Re: mmmmm.....

      watching Clarissa explains it all and then doing a search and waiting for the pictures to load........

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: mmmmm.....

        Robb celebs was a search engne of a sort. Ahh...those halcyon innocent days..sigh..

  30. Anonymous Coward

    next google

    I guess the barrier to entry for any new search engine is colossal these days. The internet is so huge, you'd need several data centres to hold the indexes before you even serve a single request.

    Not something some guys in a garage could possibly create now.

    1. Flawless101

      Re: next google

      You create something cool in your garage and hope a billion dollar company sails past and picks you out of the icy cold waters.

  31. MikeyD85
    Thumb Up

    Was my fave back in the day. It was a nice, clean website.

    1. Ilgaz


      It was owned by ,a Norwegian company and was eventually ended up in Yahoo's hands to be wasted.

  32. Flawless101

    I remember overhearing a couple of people talking one day, arguing over what search engine to use. It boiled down to using Lycos if you were searching for something on the internet and you used Ask Jeeves if you wanted to know the answer to a question.

    Simpler times.

  33. Julz


    Always had a liking for the ferret after the gophor died.

    Mine has a ferret in the pockets...

  34. Steady Eddy until it went all Yahoo!

    Then WiseNut which was pretty good.


  35. WaveyDavey

    I remember

    when our vicar typed hotbod instead of hotbot. Ooopsie.

    He *said* it was by mistake...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I remember

      hotboy was the usual embarrassing typo.

  36. DJV Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Well, at least Doogle is still around!

  37. b166er

    Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Blip

    Bleeeeeee BleeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeZZNNGGNNPP

    That was my USR Sportster connecting anyway. Always made an odd ZZNNGGNN noise at the end and I always wanted to know why! :D Other modems didn't. I liked to believe it was the extra few K I seemed to be able to get over others in Quake2.

    This article reminded me of a few I had completely forgotten, so cheers for that.

    If only AltaVista had known how things could turn out.

  38. Gordon 11

    Older memories...

    ...memorably played on TV by Stephen Fry

    For some of us the memory goes back to Dennis Price.

  39. The Serpent

    Excite eXtreme

    I seem to recall a rather pointless prettification of Excite where the text front end was replaced by some kind of 3d-ish rotating in-browser animation which ran like utter crap on every PC I ever tried it on.

    Also, I remember when Infoseek didn't have that slick 'i in a circle' logo and favoured an earwax yellow approach

    1. The Serpent

      Re: Excite eXtreme

      Ironically, just supplied me this link:

      Needless to say, it never ran like that in real life and it was a UI disaster with the same potential as Metro (or whatever) except that Excite had the sense not to inflict it on everyone

  40. trog-oz

    I've always gone for shorter URLs

    I've always typed everything into the address bar, so opt towards yahoo simply because it is one character less than google. When I discovered that Ask Jeeves could be accessed via aj, I've always used that. I wonder how many keystrokes I've saved over the years?

  41. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    Was what I mostly used back then. Is it still around? (Obviously blocked at work)

    1. Kris Akabusi

      Re: Astalavista

      Yep I used that at everything else, its not as good now

  42. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Quality of results

    Been through them all. And used Google for most of the time since it appeared. Because, even being the world's biggest ad agency it still produced results that weren't all trying to sell me stuff that was peripherally connected to a single key word in what I wanted.

    Ask Jeeves did that even when I did want to buy stuff. A search along the lines of, maybe, "Where can I get cheap laces for my Timberlands" would find a trillion sites trying to sell cheap ( i.e. nasty/ fake ) Timberlands or even random unbranded boots but none of them would sell the bloomin' laces.

  43. Paul Webb

    No Ink Tummy?

    Inktomi results (or part of) seemed to be incorporated into many of the search engines of the time, not least HotBot.

    I do seem to remember a fleeting moment in time when SEO was a noble art before it became infested with marketroid scum.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: No Ink Tummy?

      I do seem to remember a fleeting moment in time when SEO was a noble art before it became infested with marketroid scum.

      Wow, no shit. Exactly which alternative universe was this in?

      1. Paul Webb

        Re: No Ink Tummy?

        The one where I didn't realise I was turning into a marketroid scum... In my alternate universe 'marcomms' <spit> came under the remit of Technical Communications so it didn't feel so dirty, especially as we were all engineers first and foremost not fluffy bunny... marketroid scum. Quite amused by the fact that the seo/sem/neu meeja company that took over our old offices likes to promote how many of its' employees have a mathematical or science background, as if that gives their activity any more credence.

  44. skuzzzy

    I remember lycos because of the media player associated with it - there were some interesting plugins; the visualisation down the rabbit hole being my favourite.

    Also, I still type and get redirected to yahoo's translator because I never saw another memorable translator URL

  45. PLAzmA

    AT Strings

    As we reminiscing the modem days, dont forget flashing up USR modems to unlock their full potential (thanks USR) or screwing about with AT strings to get a bit better through put on what ever bbs.

    Ahhh the hours spent in the draw creating some ansi animation that lasted for a full 5 seconds lolz.

    Oh and dont forget ICE Z Modem Protocol, (wooot, two way chat and a download on the go).

    And being envious of the guys with multi node ring downs and hoping your mum wouldn't cut you of by picking up the phone.

    Ahhh wipes tear from the eye, those were the days.

    1. Jonesy

      Re: AT Strings

      They've never gone away mate! I was using them just the other month to get those Huawei 3G Dongles going on various android devices... Blast from the Past.

      Used to get on the "information superhighway" via a local bbs who had something silly like 10 Line Ring Down, It was a Text Only affair at 28.8, Actually nothing much changes because I was using Lynx on the RaspPi just yesterday and 3UK data connectivity feels like dialup sometimes. :)

  46. J. R. Hartley

    I used to use Lycos on Windows98.

    Im only 29 but typing that made me feel reeeeealy old :/

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: I used to use Lycos on Windows98.

      God, I'm sorry. I hope you used something other than IE as your browser at least.

      I at least had the good sense to use Windows 2000, I'm not much older than you either. But anyway I was also a Lycos user and it feels like it was an eternity ago. But hell, there are probably people still trying to find me based on my old Lycos email address.

      And wasn't Snap something that NBC wound up with until they discontinued the name? I seem to recall a commercial they did at Hoover Dam talking about how powerful their search engine was in about 1997 or so.

  47. What? Me worry?

    But what about the analogue search engine - Internet Yellow Pages?

    Yes, I admit I actually bought this sometime in the early/mid nineties. Back when Powell's operated the Technical Book Store. You want to look something up on the internet? Here, look in this BOOK... :)

    Here's a later edition from Amazon:

  48. DZ-Jay

    Ah! Altavista

    To this day, whenever I need a translation, I always type in "" in my browser's address bar.

    Ah! Those were the days.

  49. Scott 62

    I remember Altavista was my primary source of 10 second Jenna Jameson clips as a youth.

    Those were they days *sniffle*

  50. Jon Green
    Black Helicopters


    First time I came across Lycos was when they were just a basement poster session at the 3rd International WWW Convention at Darmstadt, in 1995! Seems a shame that (almost) everyone seems to have forgotten them now.

    Title of one paper from that convention: "Chapter 6, In which Pooh proposes improvements to Web authoring tools, having seen said tools for the Unix platform."

    [Black helicopter, just 'cos it looks like a splatted spider.]

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about Google?

    Before it too was taken over by the suits.

  52. Petrea Mitchell

    I miss the random link

    AltaVista, I believe it was, used to have a feature where you could request a random link in one of 9 categories that included "Science", "Games", and "Elvis Sightings". I found some fascinating stuff that way...

  53. Petrea Mitchell

    Ah, Infoseek

    Infoseek has a special place in my heart for being the first search engine ever to refer someone to one of my Web pages.

  54. mhoneywell

    AltaVista Desktop search

    I'm fairly sure they were the first to deliver a desktop search that was usable too. I relied on it for years, till it sank with the rest of its efforts.

    Yahoo had it's moment of glory too. You could probably argue, well maybe, that it was ahead of its time with its API's. Shame it forgot about sharing it's innovations, like Amazon do nowadays, it could have been ahead of the pack.

    1. Philip Lewis

      Re: AltaVista Desktop search

      They also had OK VPN tunnel software as well IIRC

  55. h3

    Google did do it properly. But more and more recently it is regressing. (Starting to do the irritating things that were the main reason that it was good.)

    The god awful black bar / making it lots of effort to change search parameters (Combared to when they were by the side) / automatically signing you up to youtube (And associated spam message) if you accidentally click on a link when you are logged in.

    (Bing doesn't yet seem to actively trick you into doing anything. (Unlike Facebook (the worst) and now Google.)

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      (Are you (writing) in some (LISP-influenced (dialect)) of English?)

  56. sisk

    Ah, Infoseek

    I fondly remember Infoseek, as well as the irritation I felt when the 'search within results' feature vanished. Granted, you can get better results from Google these days, but back then it was a pretty quick way to whittle the 50 million or so hits you got for latex to just a few talking about which brands of latex paint would bond to the cinderblock walls of your garage. Any other search engine you were stuck taking your chances with search terms like 'latex bondage'.

  57. Steady Eddy

    Such a pity

    Such a pity that 99% of people think there is only one search engine and that that search engine is Google

  58. icedvolvo

    Ahh but there is none left

    remember when you could do reg expression searches like use brackets, AND, NOT, OR and the ever useful NEAR. Using this you could really narrow in on something you were looking for.

    Whether by design or in a an attempt to thwart SEO meisters Google search is next to useless.

    There is one reg ex search engine left ( but I am not sure how good its coverage is.

    1. Ian 55

      Re: Ahh but there is none left

      Doing that on AltaVista was lovely, except that when Google arrived, it was quicker (and gave better results) to just type in the query - you could do several Google searches in the time one AV search took.

      The scariest bit about the article is all those billions of dollars paid out for so little. Forget using betting or the stock market (aka betting) to monetise your time machine, just set it to the 90s and say you've got a neat search engine...

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Besides Astalavista... was of great value as well.

  60. Herby

    Modem, speeds, and tones, Oh My!

    Yes, there were things before "the internet" when you had to connect directly to the machine you did work on. Your "local" presence was a terminal that clunked along at 110 baud (10 characters/second). A wonderful mechanical beast called a Teletype machine (usually an ASR33, having paper tape and all). You did all that acoustic coupler stuff because the phone company wouldn't let you connect directly to the phone line. Of course, if you managed to "obtain" a real Bell 103A modem (they are nice big boxes with dial phones attached!), you could wire it up yourself and not tell anyone how you did it. Later on we graduated to higher speed terminals (IBM 2741's were in use in the late 60's/early 70's) or 30 CPS devices called DECWriters.

    Search engines were usually the guy next to you when you asked "where is...".

    Of course, lots of things were contained in rows of card files, or tape libraries, and "search" was to look to see if you could find it on the label.

    Then there was email, to another guy on the machine. Did it in the 60's!

  61. Tree

    Two more

    Back in the day, I had a program on my computer ---not a website. It was called Web Ferret and it ferreted out results from multiple search engines like Ask Jeeves and Alta Vista. When a new hot honey had pictures on the web, I'd search for her name. On dial up it took a while, so after starting, it was time to go to the fridge for a cold one. .

    Now DuckDuckGo has an engine without javascript. Provides a clean interface together with a no-tracking privacy policy.. Just love it.

  62. crediblywitless

    The First One

    I haven't seen any mention of JumpStation yet:

    Where I am, we used that, to start with, and the killer blow was that we thought everyone had one. 20 years old next Christmas, and the WWW search engine was yet another of those forgotten-about British inventions. That's at least partly my fault. Sorry, everyone.

  63. madhatter007


    Does anyone remember All the sites added were reviewed which meant the result descriptions where pretty good and family friendly.

    Not much left online about it but found a good old Register article -

  64. David Paul Morgan

    Alta Vista...

    ... their algorithms are embedded in Symantec Enterprise Vault search. Very efficient too . I remember the Lycos dog!

  65. Matthew 17

    they were terrible

    The early search engines were awful,'s results bared almost no relevance to anything you typed yet is seemed to be more accurate than the others.

    Google was quite a novelty when it appeared as it actually worked.

    Dealing with my parents and similar, Google is the internet, as it's set as the home page of their browser, they didn't realise that they were a) using a browser at all or b) that Google was a web page. They'd open IE or whatever and Google would appear. My folks still can't differentiate the two.

    1. Mike Flugennock

      Re: they were terrible

      The early search engines were awful,'s results bared almost no relevance to anything you typed yet is seemed to be more accurate than the others...

      I dimly remember a joke on the Web -- I forget where -- circa mid '90s, something about "search engines to search for search engines".

      ...Dealing with my parents and similar, Google is the internet, as it's set as the home page of their browser, they didn't realise that they were a) using a browser at all or b) that Google was a web page. They'd open IE or whatever and Google would appear. My folks still can't differentiate the two.

      My wife -- who calls me a Luddite for being skeptical and wary of Facebook -- does that, too. She types the name of a site -- sometimes the actual site URL -- into the search field in Google, then clicks on the link in the Google results page. Every time I try to point out that Google is not the Web, and that she could probably find the site she's after by making a guess by typing into the actual address field in Firefox before resorting to Google, she pitches a fit.

  66. marc 9

    Anyone remember Northern Light?

    It was at - that was my search engine of choie cicra 1998

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anyone remember galaxy?

    Anyone remember galaxy? Gopher ?

    1. autodidaktos

      Re: anyone remember galaxy?

      Gopher protocol implemented in a browser [Mosaic] is what caught Jim Clarks eye and got him in touch with Andreessen.Jim Clarks company [SGI] built one of the bay areas coolest HQ`s at 1600 amphitheatre parkway [the chocolate factory].Here is the 1994 Mosaic site -soon to call themselves Netscape

  68. Paul Gamble

    I wondered why Inktomi weren't mentioned here.

    Yahoo, Hotbot, AltaVista and many of the other providers whitelabelled Inktomi and in the main it wasn't even indentified on their portals.

    Inktomi were in effect the hidden Google before Google.

    Inktomi also purchase the Ultraseek Infoseek Enterprise Search business in 2000 which became Inktomi Enterprise Search. Inktomi grew into content and media publishing / distribution but the bubble burst in circa 2002 when they went out of business and various organisations acquired bits - Yahoo acquired the web search bits and Verity the Enterprise platform.

    As some will know, Verity ended up being acquired by Autonomy and we all know what happened with that.


  69. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    And to the collection of non-WWW search engines and indexes (Archie, WAIS, et al) we should add DejaNews of blessed memory. It was often more useful than the web search engines for specific technical queries, since Usenet had a better signal-to-noise ratio once the easily-identifiable spam was filtered out, and the newsgroup hierarchy acted as an information model for targeted search.

    Then alas Google bought it and gradually destroyed it by incorporating it into the ever-worsening Google Groups abomination.

    1. Philip Lewis

      Re: DejaNews

      I miss usenet and all those monikers of people I had never seen and with whom I had interacted so often. I stopped going there when the technology that was my business got strangled to death by CompaQ, so I hadto move on and usenet participation was left by the wayside ...

  70. Seanmon
    Thumb Up


    That was entertaining, but how bloody old do I feel now?

  71. Philip Lewis

    Google does not understand languages

    As an aside, I stopped using google because I travel a lot, often to countries where I don't speak the language.

    Currently, sitting in Thailand, I typed as a nostalgia thing. I am confronted with a display in Thai, without any recognisable text other than "google groups" and some OS references.

    There is no obvious way to tell google to display my language or get redirected to a site I might actually be able to read. Every other country, the same.

    Google have localised everything and made their websites unusable for anyone who travels - yes, I am tempted to blame this on Google being run by American monolingual arseholes that think a trip to Starbucks is traveling, but perhaps I am being unduly harsh. In retrospect no, I'm not being harsh.

    But there is more. In the space of several minutes, google on one particular memorable evening sent me to danish, english, swedish and portuguese sites. All this, even though I was logged in to my google account where they could know I was an English speaker if they were competent enough to do the look up.

    And this is not limited to one machine. Google's predilection to sending me to a Portuguese site knows no bounds and has occurred on more than once machine, including one that I do not own. So, I feel confident to blame google.

    All this geo-bullshit is based on a false premise and the arrogance of not delivering me the URL I typed is astounding. I will be happy to see google get sent to the dustbin of history, along with that arrogant and dangerous prick Schmidt

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