Today’s most computers users have Google.com (or its local variations) as start page in his browser. They think that’s the Internet and, by a misterious reason (called marketing), they’re compelled to write in the textbox in the middle of the page anything they want get from the Internet. Although this explains the absolute dominance of Google in the search market (yes, it’s that simple!), this situation is there to explain how users are absolutely disconnected from the pure concept of search and how they’re not able to understand the difference between Internet and Google Search.

Most users with the low level described above are unable to read any text with more than five lines but maybe you, as a technological guru capable to read a full article, will need sometime a clear scheme of the evolution of web search to enlighten them if you must explain that what the textbox in their start page is made for. So, let’s see what are the steps we took to be here.

No search

Libraries have been there for ages. Knowledge has always been stockpiled against the walls and only a few librarians and erudite men had access to the books and a few of then knew where to find an exact bit of info. For common bits of info (i.e.: there are groceries in Delaware?) the knowledge could or couldn’t exist but it’s very improbable to reach by someone but the only person who knows that info.

Punched card reader

Mechanical search

The U.S. government was a pioneer in the late XIX century because authorities understood the usefulness of the mechanical procedures to store data in punch cards. In 1911, some companies merged to create CTR ( Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation), the later IBM. With this method massive amounts of info can be inserted and retrieved as lists but there’s no search yet. This system is reproduced with the first computers (mainframes with terminals) and the info is stored in magnetical tape. Now, there is some kind of search, performing queries against databases built with banking or census data. These data are supplied by the same operator of the computer.

Internet search

Then came Internet and, for the first time, data came from sources different than the computer itself. Then appeared some tools to organize the (few) info available. Some tools were databases, some were directories and some were things like Virtual Library (VLib), a loose confederation of topical experts maintaining relevant topical link lists.

As the web grew, it became boundless for any single person or group of persons so, suddenly, a race for the real web search engine started suddenly.

Web search

In 1994 Altavista is launched. This is a first among web search engines in many ways: it has unlimited bandwidth, allows natural language queries, has search tips, and allows people to add or delete their domains in 24 hours. It was amazing! For years, Altavista was the king of search engines.

Meanwhile two students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin begin working on BackRub, a search engine based in the importance of websites according to the links it receive, in the same way the scientific papers have more or less reputation regarding the number of citations they receive along the years. With a lot of money on their back (provided by investors and capital firms) and a few marketing twists (they became the Yahoo! search service, i.e.), Google won the search engine race in the first decade of the XXI century.

Personal search

In the middle of the second decade of this century, we’re watching a new fight for a new kind of search. Now, the question is not what the websites in the World Wide Web can have about the terms you searched for but what part of that content matches with your personal needs. If you’re in Los Angeles and search for “groceries”, is pretty useless a list of groceries in Madrid (maybe the best ones in the world but far away from you). So, the new search need to know where you are, what do you like the most, when are you asking (there’s no public transport in the middle of the night) and a lot of variables. The battlefield for this search is moving from the personal computer to the mobile devices, mainly the smart phones.

Anyway, this is not history, this is what you’re watching right now. Take a look and go for applicants or sit back and enjoy.