Past and Present of Web Search
Written by Amit Pankaj on July 13, 2011
The Web search has seen a long path from first generation search engines to third generation. It has improved a lot from the inception of first search engine till yet. The end users were not getting the accurate results until Google came into the picture. In this article, we’ll take you through the history of Web search (Search 1.0 and Search 2.0) to present, which we’ve today.
W3Catalog was the first primitive Web search engine, and World Wide Web Wanderer was the first Web Crawler. WebCrawler was the first well known search engine to provide good results. In 1996, the top most search engines were Lycos, Magellan, Yahoo, InfoSeek, and Excite. Yahoo was the first to include humans in categorizing the search results.
The Web Crawlers used to follow the links automatically on the World Wide Web. They were automatically indexing every new page and caching it. The search engines were providing the results based on its index using a proprietary algorithm. The top most pages were those which had used the searched terms more than others. The Web sites and pages were ranked on the basis of “on-the-page” factors.
The invention of Google by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998 was a great step to revolutionize the Web and a good startup to bring the masses attention to the Internet. Google PageRank algorithm followed the democracy to count the number of links (votes) for a Web page. The major search engines adopted following points to prioritize the Web pages in their respective search engine result pages (SERPs):
- Number of incoming and outgoing links at a page
- Number of clicks in the SERPs
- Other off-page criteria
The Web companies soon traced certain factors considered by search algorithms. They started tailoring content liked by search engines, building links counted by them, and inserting keywords in the HTML source. In fact, these things brought the search engine optimization (SEO) to main stream and made SEO a necessity for each Website. The black hat techniques like heavy link exchange, massive directory submissions, duplicate or spammy content, keyword stuffing etc. also emerged. These techniques were the real reasons for irrelevant results in the SERPs. The search engines started their work to fight against the spam in their search results.
Suppose a user was looking for “news on California” then he/she has to browse the entire results just to find a link to News Website. Vertical Search provides the search results categorized on the basis of different fields like image, news, video, blog, audio etc. Google started categorizing the search results in 2001 with its so called OneBoxes.
Search 3.0 is the mixture of regular search results with vertical search results. Another major change is the inclusion of localized search results. Search engines started providing results based on locality. The embedding of Google Maps in Google Search was a great step in this regard. People started registering their locations in the Google Maps. Following Google, other search engines soon adopted localization search. Google rolled out Universal Search in May 2007 and blended the search results with these categories: – Blog, Book, Catalogs, Code, Directory, Finance, Images, Local/Maps, News, Patent, Product, Scholar, Video, Web, and Everything. Ask came up with Ask3D in June 2007. Here, 3D refers to three dimensions: query expression, checking results, and digging deeply in the content.
Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask came up with their different vertical search engines to allow users searching in a particular field only.
Search 4.0 brings the human back to action for prioritizing the Web pages in search results. Google and Bing are giving more preference to end users’ behavior towards a search result instead of other techniques. Both of the companies recently declared that they are incorporating the social signals generated for a URL in their searching techniques. The social signals can be Facebook Like, Facebook Share, Facebook Recommend, Twitter Tweet, Google Recommend It, Google Buzz, Yahoo Buzz etc. for a given URL. In nutshell, the social signals are gaining more importance and weight than other factors.
Fight Against Spam
Blekko’s Step against Spam
It allows users to filter the search results with slashtags. One can slash its filter term with the keyword, e.g. “news California /date” displays the news results sorted date wise. Blekko accepts login with Facebook Connect and allows its members to either like the URL or mark it as spam.
Blekko has used the data of user recommendations to block 20 major content farm Websites in February 2011. It has started a spam clock at January 1, 2011 to count the spam on World Wide Web and it is still running.
Google’s Step against Spam
Recently launched Google +1 feature allows users to +1 the URLs appeared in their searches and see what their friends have liked. The +1ed URLs are stored in the Google Profiles of the users.
Google Inc. is using its Chrome browser as a wagon wheel for optimizing the search results. Its Personal Blocklist Extension allows users to block a URL from appearing in SERPs.
Google have recently released Panda 1, 2, and 2.2 updates to filter the duplicate content on the Web. This bring heavy change in the PageRankings, blockage of the content farm sites in SERPs, and notified the Webmasters to go with original, relevant, and quality-oriented content only.
- Searched Keywords: QuickScroll Chrome Extension highlights the searched terms on a Web page.
- Mouse over Preview: Google and Bing allow end users to look over the Websites or pages appeared in SERPs with either mouse hover or a single click.
- The latest browsers like Internet Explorer 9 and Google Chrome 11 are using address bar as their search bar. The users can type the search term therein and search for without visiting any page.
- Google Instant is showing the search results on-the-fly while a user is typing the keywords to search. Appearing search results changes instantly as one keeps typing the keywords.
The emergence of social networking Websites leveraged the end users to share their knowledge, resources, and recommend search result pages. Twitter Search allows users to reply or retweet the search results, whereas one can use Facebook Search to search the listed persons, companies, products, communities etc. Google Realtime and Bing Social provides their regular search results blended with Twitter search results.
Both Google and Bing allow users to save the history of searches of an end user. Bing named this term as Search History and Google coined it earlier as Web History. You can login at Bing or Google search to turn on or off the search history. The Google Toolbar and Bing Bar also collects the search history.
Google also allowed users to rate and provide feedback of the hotels and locations. If you are using Google Shopping search then you can see the ratings and reviews of the products and mark them helpful or not helpful. The Bing Shopping allows you to view the rates, ratings and reviews from different providers.
Google have included the Social Activity Tracker Plugin in its Google Analytics. This will help Webmasters to know about the social actions carried out at their Website and their effect on it. Now, Google Analytics displays different reports for each social activity like social bookmarking, social sharing, and traffic coming from social activities.
Currently, we’re using a mixture of Search 3.0 and 4.0 in our daily lives. Every search engine is working hard to improve itself and provide better search results. We’ve to wait what future has behind its curtains. We invite our readers to pour their comments on this article and their thinking about the future of Web Search.
Amit Pankaj works as a Senior Technical Writer with XhtmlCssCode. He specializes in Social Media, Content Management and SEO. XhtmlCssCode shares information and insight on PSD to HTML Conversion and integration with 3rd party CMSs like WordPress, Magento, Drupal and Joomla. Subscribe to our Blog RSS or you can follow us on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, also on Linkedin for updates on HTML Conversion Service.