The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

There was a time when search engines were a thing. And it seems they still are

I was poking around in the deeper parts of my harddrive when I came across the source code for Geofind, a metasearch engine I wrote back in the late 90s. A “metasearch engine” is a website that searches not the Internet, but instead passes the search query to other search engines. Back in the 90s, search engines weren't quite as good as they are now (although some might contend that they aren't as good as they were a decade ago), but there were a fair number of them, and the thought at the time was, “hey, if we query a bunch of search engines at the same time, maybe one of them will have useful results.”

In fact, quite a number of them. Unlike the … um … two? (Google and Bing). maybe, three? (if you count DuckDuckGo, which I only know about because of the circles I travel in on the Intarwebs) which exist today.

The last version of the code I have lists 10 engines, although I seem to recall we had as many as 15 at one time. But here's the 10 engines we were querying as of April 1999:

  1. Magellan—once a search engine, now an apartment finder. It's probably not the same company, but I don't know for sure.
  2. Infoseek—the domain is now owned by Disney, which, I think, now owns close to 50% of movies and television.
  3. Lycosis still around! It's still a search engine! As stated on their About page: “Lycos, Inc. is a survivor. Established in 1995, we were originally a search engine ? before most people even knew what a ‘search engine’ was. Times change, and Lycos, Inc. has changed with them, evolving from a single search engine into a focused network of community and social sites that include Gamesville.com, Tripod.com, Angelfire.com, and of course, Lycos.com.” Incredible.
  4. FreeYellow.Com—I think this was a site much like GeoCities, and now, it still exists! Although I don't see a search function, and it's no longer free. Go figure.
  5. Webcrawler—good Lord, it's still around! And apparently, the parent company runs its own metasearch engine.
  6. Yahoostill around … somehow. And they still offer search … somehow.
  7. Alta Vista—is now Yahoo.
  8. Exciteis also around! It's a cluttered page that makes me think they want to be like Yahoo, but hey, they still offer web search.
  9. HotBotit's still around? Really? I mean, Yahoo, yeah, that's still around. But five? In the era of Google? I'm seriously surprised by this.
  10. Goto.com—no longer exists, and the domain now redirects to GoToMeeting, an Internet based collaboration site.

I also found a section of my bookmarks labeled “GeoFind Search Engines,” which includes a few more that weren't listed above. In this list we have:

  1. Clusty the Clustering Engine—I used to use this one (and even offered a search entry that pointed to it on this very site) until they went all in on the Bible Code stuff. They seem to have distanced themselves from the Bible Code stuff sometime in the past eight years though.
  2. Gigablastis still around. And its advanced query page certainly take me back to 1996.
  3. New Rider—redirects to the global mobile operator at sea. Okay.
  4. PointSearchis still around, in the “hyperlocal search” space.
  5. LinkStar—gone entirely. Not even a domain squatter has the domain, that's how dead this one is.
  6. Galaxyis still around. Wow.
  7. Aliweb—gone. All that's left is an article about the site.
  8. Tribal Voice—gone. But unlike LinkStar, the domain is owned by a domain squatter.

What is it with these nearly twenty year old sites still up? I mean, that's great and all, but given that probably 80% of all sites I've linked to in my blog have disappeared, I find it surprising that nearly 50% of the old search engines are still around.

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