The legacy of search engines began in the early 21st century. Earlier than that, FTP, that is File Transfer Protocol, was the only way of searching data. As the internet and the scope of the World Wide Web grew, new dimensions opened which led to the development of search engines where people can search for almost anything they want.
It was only in the late 1990’s that Matthew Gray developed the very first search engine in the format as we know it today, the Wandex. The technology developed by Gray searched the World Wide Web to look for indexed pages.
Another big twist in the history of search engines came with Yahoo!. Yes, you must have once opened an account with it. So, Yahoo! came in 1994, founded by David Filo and Jerry Yang. Yahoo! initially used secondary services to support its search engine directory by partnering with Inktomi and Google. It purchased Overture’s PPC in 2004. With all these goodies in its bag, Yahoo tried to scale for a while, but no longer today. Why?
The big fall of Yahoo! had many questions but only one answer. The privacy of data. Yes, it’s because users got aware of their privacy being compromised by Yahoo!. The corporate transparency with its employees and tech ecosystem commitments made a significant impact on Yahoo!’s decline.
Both Yahoo! and the media had blamed Marissa Mayer who was appointed CEO in 2012 and she had to step down in 2017 after the stock of Yahoo! fell more than 30% over the preceding years. Some accepted her decisions and the changes in company policy, while others criticized them, especially reviewing the employees on a bell curve. No matter how hard she tried, she could not protect Yahoo! or her position and finally stepped down.
In 1994 WebCrawler was born by the great mind of Brian Pinkerton. Then came Lycos, developed by Dr Michael Mauldin, and in the same year Infoseek by Steve Kirsch was launched. All these and many more such search engines frame legacy of the search engine history, but the truth is that this legacy is declining. More so recently when the entire definition of a search engine is redefined on keyword-based searches and more relevant advertisements based on the user’s search history are being shown.
Now, the big question is who is in the game now? Well, at least apart from the ever-dominant Google which was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1997. It was Google that introduced the concept of relevance-based ranking, quality linking and informative content on websites. Today almost 70% of all web searches are performed using Google.
More recently, new budding search engines are appearing that are breaking the stereotype and that users appreciate. These new entrants in the search engine market are trying to provide services and search results that many giants are not able to provide.
Let’s take a look at some of these entrants into the search market that stand against giants like Google:
- DuckDuckGo.com, founded by Gabriel Weinberg, is a US-based search engine which has come up as a strong alternative to Google. DuckDuckGo focuses on maintaining user privacy and avoiding filter bubbles that are used to personalize advertisements and search results. The recent outbreak on big companies like Google and Facebook on doing a profitable business by collecting and selling personal data came as quite an outrage. Well, it sure is trying to climb up the ladder, we will wait and see how far it can get.
- Qwant.com is another search engine developed in Europe and founded by Jean-Manuel Rozan in 2011, which makes high claims and stands out against Google. It’s slogan “The search engine that respects your privacy,” says it all loud and clean, especially on their Twitter ad campaigns. People can search for their favorite music, trends, stories, news and more like on any other search engine without compromising their right to privacy. The search engine which claims to have raised more than 40M € from investors is not ready to overcome Yahoo! or Google yet. Qwant is available for both Android and iOS.
- StatesOne.com, a disruptive search engine bootstrapped in 2012 in France by Isaac Arnault, can be seen as a local extension of Yahoo! and Google. It aims to promote countries by highlighting news, images, videos, jobs and local deals for more than 40 countries. The company also focuses on transparency and user’s privacy. It’s a more accurate platform to search for anything specific to the location than DuckDuckGo or Qwant. Despite its offer, it seems that StatesOne is not yet well known. The start-up is not listed on CrunchBase, maybe because it has not raised any funds yet, which could hamper its business in the long run. Well, let’s wait and see.
- Privado is a privacy-first search engine that gives users a truly private search experience by using proprietary technology to maximize online search privacy and anonymity. To ensure a search query is not associated with a specific user, Privado does not store the user’s IP address. Also, to eliminate the ability to extract the search term, Privado encrypts the search term, so that it becomes unreadable in the browser’s history. Ads displayed to users are non-traceable, based on the search queries, and not on any personal information.
So, the entire model of search engines is based on user searches and finding more relevant results. With more focus on website ranking and search engine optimization by companies, it is hard for new entrants to compete with giants.
The recent case on Mark Zuckerberg for violation privacy of users and using personal data on Facebook to make money by marketing has posed a big question on the reliability and the fundamental rights of users to privacy.
With the legacy set by search engines like Yahoo!, Infoseek, Web Crawler and AOL being hit by rising concerns for privacy, intrusion and transparency, the new entrants could bridge the gap of faith and embark upon a new journey.