The mere mention of the term ‘search engine’ today will almost certainly bring Google to most people’s minds. Without a doubt they are the dominant force in the search engine market, with an almost monopolist handle over the industry. As well as running their search engine, Google as a company has expanded into several other categories, such as mail (Google Mail – or ‘Gmail’ as it is collectively called) and maps (Google Maps). In addition to this, such is the level of their dominance and power that they have been able to buy-out other websites – including the world-famous YouTube. Not forgetting, of course, that they also own their own increasingly-popular browser, Google Chrome, and the Mobile Phone platform Android.
I’m not for one moment suggesting that the rise and expansion of Google is a negative thing. However, its continued growth has meant other ‘classic’ search engines have all but faded out:
AltaVista, the search engine I used when I first began using the Internet in the late 90s, was bought by a company called Overture in 2003, which was later bought out by Yahoo. Despite attempts by Yahoo to re-design and increase AltaVista’s popularity, it was overtaken by Google. Although it is still in existence, in 2010 Yahoo announced their plans to discontinue the site, which suggests it will not continue to be for much longer.
‘Ask Jeeves’ (or simply ‘Ask’) was another popular search engine. The ‘Jeeves’ part of its name, referring to a fictional butler character, was dropped in 2006, although it has since returned in the UK version. Ask originally posed as a specific question-answering service, allowing users to enter questions in everyday language as opposed to keywords. Ask.com surprisingly still exists, though it is clearly not as well-known. It is currently owned by a company named InterActiveCorp.
HotBot originally began in 1996 as a straight competitor to other search engines and in its prime overtook AltaVista as the most popular. However, after being purchased by Lycos its popularity diminished. It was re-released in 2004 as a ‘multiple option search tool’ – allowing users to choose which other search engine’s database they would use for their search. Today, it is still owned by Lycos, and acts as a front-end for other more popular search engines.
More recently Microsoft has had more success with their search engine named Bing. The small foothold they have managed to gain is surely due to the reputation and power that the Microsoft brand still holds. Being branded as a ‘Decision Engine’ rather than search engine, it may be Google’s only competitor for the next few years.
There is a reason Google has been so successful – it is a great search engine. But don’t forget those that paved the way.