It can really help understand the current state of the internet, how it is evolving and how to prepare for the future if you at least have some understanding of it's history. So, the next paragraph is going to give you everything that you really need to know about the history of the internet and rise of search engines as quickly and painlessly as possible.
History of the Internet on Extreme Fast Forward
In the early decades of the Internet, there were no search engines. The Internet began in 1969 when four US universities connected some of their computers to create a new communications network. Email was introduced in 1972, and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) was introduced in 1973 allowing users to log onto a remote computer and download files from that computer. The word Internet was first used in 1982 and it wasn’t until 1984 that the DNS (Domain Name System) was established, this is when .com, .org, and .edu came into existence. It wasn’t until 1989 that the first dial up ISP (Internet Service Provider) became available to consumers. The first effort to index the Internet came in 1990, the same year the first search engine “Archie” was introduced… but Archie only listed sites and did not offer any information about the contents of the sites. From 1992-1994 a number of Internet directories sprang up, but websites had to be manually submitted and they really only helped users find sites by category. Then in 1994, Lycos became the first search engine to create search results that were based on “ranked relevance retrieval” (this tried to determine if the words being typed into the search engine were a match for the words that appeared on a webpage). In 1996 Larry Page and Sergey Brin created “PageRank” a method of giving web pages a score based on the quantity and quality of the websites that linked back to them. This breakthrough, combined with the type of “ranked relevance retrieval” system that Lycos had created, laid the foundation for modern search engines. (See, that bit of history wasn’t so painful)
Without the rise of search engines, Internet users would have to know the exact URL of a webpage, or at least the URL of the website, that contained the information they were looking for. Without search engines it would be nearly impossible for the average user to find anything online, and the Internet would not have become what it is today.
The Internet Today
According to Google there are over 60 trillion web pages are live on the World Wide Web as of September 2014.
Today, 87% of users find what they are looking for online through search engines. Every time a user types a term into a search engine, it is the job of the search engine to determine, out of 60 trillion pages that exist online, which pages are most likely to be a perfect match for what that user is looking for… and to deliver those results instantly!
When you consider the sheer magnitude of the Internet, this task sounds incredibly difficult, but if you also consider the diverse types of content that exist online including written content, images, videos, audio, products, ebooks, articles, blogs, reports, events, business listings, reviews, forums, FAQ’s, personal profiles, social networks and more… it’s really mind boggling.
The Challenge For Search Engines
Search engines face several difficult challenges in their quest toward “organizing the world’s information” and making that information instantly accessible to anyone. The first challenge is understanding what information people are actually looking for when they type in a search query. Then search engines must understand, out of 60 trillion webpages, which webpages are the most relevant, trust worthy, offer the best user experience and are most likely to satisfy the needs of the user. But, how do they do it? How do search engines know the difference between high quality, relevant and important content vs. all of the low quality spammy content that exists online? That is exactly what you are about to find out!