When the World Wide Web went live on August 6, 1991, a number of college students around the world began building their own browsers as a way of reaching this shared space called the World Wide Web. Eventually, most of those early student browsers went away and left us with more familiar browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
But browsers only gave us access to the Web. They were designed to help people pull up specific websites, but they were not designed to help people find specific information on specific web pages across the World Wide Web. After the Web started getting popular, it wasn’t long before there were too many websites to keep up with. Someone had to come along and design search engines to help people sort through all those websites and find what they need. The more information that became available, the more valuable search engines became. Even before Google, there were more than a dozen search engines that people used to find information on the World Wide Web.
LEARNING GOAL #1: The Basics of Web History
Students will understand how the Internet evolved from a classified government research project into a world wide resource with the help of highly educated teachers and students.
PART 1: Browser DiscussionRead More
Topic #1 – After the Web Began – The First Four Browsers
When you think of a common browser, you should be thinking of Chrome, and Firefox, and Safari. These are all programs that we use on our computers and our phones to access the World Wide Web. But back in 1991, before we had those really popular browsers, the web was a lot smaller. In fact, when the World Wide Web began on August 6, 1991, there was only one web page. By December of that same year, there were still only 10 websites. The following December, there were 50 websites. In other words, for the first couple of years, the web was not very popular because there weren’t that many websites to make it popular.
The first browser used to access the Web was ViolaWWW, built by a student at the University of California who had been the member of a computer club at the college. That was in 1992 when there were no more than 50 websites to look at.
The second browser used to access the Web was Erwise, created by four college students in Finland, and it was the first “graphic” browser. This was also in 1992, when there were no more than 50 websites to look at.
The third browser was the one that made the World Wide Web quite a bit more popular in 1993. This browser, known as Mosaic, was designed by two students at the University of Illinois, Marc Andreesen and Eric Bina, when there were about 100 websites available to look at. However, between 1993 and 1994, the number of websites exploded from 100 to more than 10,000, thanks in large part to the Mosaic browser.
But something happened in December of 1993 that led to an even bigger browser known as Netscape Navigator. Read through this brief article and see if you can figure out what happened. One question you might ask yourself is WHO created Netscape Navigator?
Topic #2 – The Browser Wars
From 1994 to 1995, Netscape Navigator had almost no competition. Anyone who wanted to visit the Web would download Netscape onto their computers and start browsing. It was easy to use and easy to, well, navigate. But it was 1995 when the biggest computer technology company in the world, Microsoft, decided to build their own browser and automatically install it on their new computers. This browser that Microsoft designed was called Internet Explorer.
The makers of Netscape had to accept that their browser could never compete with the Microsoft IE browser, so they created a new company called Mozilla, which was a combination of Mosaic (their very first browser from college) and Godzilla (which represented something bigger). But it wasn’t until seven years later, in 2004, that Mozilla launched a new browser known as Mozilla Firefox.
Topic #3 – Those Other Browsers
There are plenty of good browsers out there aside from Firefox or Chrome, but most of us get comfortable with what we know. Below is a list of some other browsers you might know and some you might not:
Originally built by Apple (Steve Jobs) to compete with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The Safari browser would eventually come with all Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, and Macintosh computers).
This is the oldest browser in web history (started in 1994), but the reason you’ve probably never heard of it and never used it is because Opera is primarily a European browser that began in Norway.
For those who spent years on the Opera Browser and were looking for something new, the Vivaldi Browser is growing more popular because it is even more personalized than Chrome.
Here are some Browser Statistics to help you see how things have changed.
PART 2: Search Engine DiscussionRead More
Topic #1 – Before Google
First, we need a volunteer for the board. Anyone want to volunteer?
After Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web, a space on the Internet where people could share information, students from all over the world tried to build browsers, like Mosaic, that other people could use to see information being shared on the World Wide Web. But as more and more people kept putting information onto the World Wide Web, some designers started building websites about websites. In other words, people started building websites with a single purpose: to help people find other websites. These became known as databases, digital libraries, and search engines.
Here is a list of the 15 Search Engines that were created Before Google, but we’ll break up the list to let different students investigate different search engines. Prepare to be numbered:
- 1. Virtual Library (VLib)
VLib was created in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee to help people find the pages he and others had created up to that point. Even though it isn’t very well known anymore, some people still use it today.
- 2. Wandex
Wandex was created in 1993 as nothing more than an index of all the URLs that were on the World Wide Web (basically all the files and their locations on the Web). In the beginning, the index was pretty small. Today, you can see here (pages) and here (sites) that the list is not only huge, but constantly growing.
- 3. W3Catalog
The W3Catalog was created in 1993 and was really the first official search engine. It worked a lot like the Virtual Library designed in 1992 by Tim Berners-Lee. The W3Catalog went offline in 1996 just three years later, but someone eventually built a new W3Catalog that is still functioning.
- 4. Aliweb
Aliweb was created in 1993, but the only way a website could be included was if the creator of a website shared their site with the Aliweb. For this reason, Aliweb never had as much information and it did not succeed very long. There is a sloppy-looking Aliweb search engine you can see here, but it’s not the original.
- 5. Jumpstation
Jumpstation was created in 1993 by Jonathan Fletcher, a college student in Scotland. He came up with a program that could “crawl” the web and look through source codes for keywords in the < title > tags and the < h1 > heading tags. It wasn’t much of a search engine, but his “crawler” program became an important feature of all future search engines, which is why some call Fletcher the “Father of the Search Engine.”
- 6. Infoseek
Infoseek was created in 1994, but the designers wanted people to pay in order to search. In other words, they believed that the information on the World Wide Web was worth a price and that people who wanted that information would be willing to pay for it. That didn’t happen. So eventually, InfoSeek was purchased by Disney in 2003 and became go.com.
- 7. Altavista
Altavista was created in 1994 so that people looking for information could use “natural language” and not get caught up thinking about keywords. During the 1990s, Altavista was one of the most powerful and popular search engines available. By 2003, however, as other search engines were becoming more popular, Yahoo purchased Altavista and it gradually disappeared.
- 8. Webcrawler
Webcrawler was created in 1994 by Brian Pinkerton at the University of Washington. Part of what made Webcrawler unique was that Pinkerton set up a “Top 25” list of the most popular websites being explored on his search engine. By 1995, Webcrawler was purchased by AOL and still manages to survive today, even though it doesn’t quite look the way it once did. Here is a more detailed timeline of Webcrawler history.
- 9. Yahoo! Search
Yahoo! Search was created in 1994 by David Filo and Jerry Yang, two students at Stanford University. Originally, David and Jerry just wanted to create a list of their favorite sites with hyperlinks that went to those sites. But it wasn’t long before others started adding to the list. Today, Yahoo is still mentioned as the third most popular search engine in the world, which means David and Jerry ended up being very successful students.
- 10. Lycos
Lycos was created in 1994 by Michael Mauldin at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Some say he was running the search engine out of a computer closet at the school. Mauldin named his search engine after the lycosidae, a Greek word for “wolf spider.” The wolf spider was known for chasing after its prey and not just waiting in the web. All modern search engines now use programs called “spiders” that crawl through the web looking for keywords. And Lycos is currently still the 11th most popular search engine in the world.
- 11. LookSmart
Looksmart was created in 1995 in Australia as a human directory of popular websites. But what made LookSmart successful was when they started putting paid advertisements into every list of results. For example, a carpet company might have paid LookSmart to put their company at the top of the search results page and every time someone searching for a carpet company clicked on that advertisement, LookSmart would get paid. This process was called pay-per-click and it still exists today. In the end, LookSmart was a search engine that worked more like an online commercial advertisement.
- 12. BackRub
Backrub was created in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University. Together, they spent a year researching all the positives and negatives of search engines that had been created up to that point, and then wrote a Stanford research paper to explain their discoveries. They realized that a search engine could produce better results by giving “authority” to popular sites and then paying attention to less popular sites IF those authority sites linked back to a less popular site (hence the name BackRub). The only problem with BackRub is that it was built at Stanford and was using too much space, so it never really lasted more than a year.
- 13. Inktomi
Inktomi was created in 1996 by the work of a teacher and a student at the University of California at Berkeley. But with all the other search engines available, Inktomi creators realized that they might just be better off providing technology support for those other search engine companies. Eventually, Yahoo purchased Inktomi in 2003 and after that, no one heard about it again.
- 14. AskJeeves
AskJeeves was created in 1997 as more of a question and answer website. “Jeeves” was supposed to be a butler who could answer almost any question you asked, but the answers were based on the results of information available somewhere on the World Wide Web. This was the first search engine where someone could type out an actual question like “who was the first man to walk on the moon” and get the answer back: Neil Armstrong. Eventually, Jeeves was dropped and the search engine just became known as ask.com.
- 15. MSN Search Engine
The MSN Search Engine was created in 1998 by the Microsoft Network (MSN). The idea behind MSN was the same idea Microsoft had when it first created Internet Explorer: convenience. If people were buying computers with Microsoft Windows and those computers already had Internet Explorer, Microsoft figured that the default web page on every IE browser should be a user-friendly search engine. Their idea worked. By 2009, MSN became Bing and is now the second most popular search engine in the world behind, well, that other search engine everybody uses.
Topic #2 – 100 Zeros That Changed the World
When their BackRub search engine failed at Stanford in 1997, Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided to purchase a new domain and build a new search engine based on the idea of “back” links. They believed a website should be ranked by popularity. If lots of people were going to a website, then that made it popular. And if that popular site had links to other sites, those other sites would get a little credit for being connected with a popular site. That’s why the links were called backlinks, because they were links that came back from a more popular site.
Basically, the idea behind BackRub was a lot like popularity at school. If you’re not a popular kid, but you start hanging out with someone who is, their popularity can rub off on you. Maybe not enough to make you as popular as they are, but it sure can help. Why? Because before you started hanging out with someone that everyone knew, no one else knew your name. And then, over time, more people get to know you if you stay connected with someone popular.
One day in the Fall of 1997, Larry and Sergey sat with a team of engineers at Stanford and decided they needed a better name for their new search engine. BackRub would never last, so they wrote words on a whiteboard and brainstormed until the moment something finally clicked. Sean Anderson, a member of the group, started thinking of a really big number. He imagined that a really good search engine could index all of the pages in the entire World Wide Web for infinity, so he thought of a 1 with 100 zeros behind it. A HUGE number, he thought.
If “1 with 2 zeros” is 100, and a “1 with 3 zeros” is 1,000, then what number has a “1 with 100 zeros” behind it? If you can find the answer to that question, you’ll discover the most popular word of the last 20 years.