The history of data searching is a long one, but I’m going to focus specifically on search engines on computers. Search, or the idea of search came about right after WWII, when everyone was getting along and wanted to find a way to share information. The problem was that scientists were still publishing vast amounts of data, but then it was largely forgotten, because there wasn’t a reliable search tool.
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Where Search Systems Started
The System search started of course with libraries at universities, cataloguing their data. (Remember those rows of card catalogues?) This was a great start, but it was still a closed system. Then along came the World Wide Web.
While an independent contractor at CERN from June to December 1980, Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers. With help from Robert Cailliau he built a prototype system named Enquire.
After leaving CERN in 1980 to work at John Poole’s Image Computer Systems Ltd., he returned in 1984 as a fellow. In 1989, CERN was the largest Internet node in Europe, and Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the Internet. In his words, “I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web“. He used similar ideas to those underlying the Enquire system to create the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first web browser and editor (called WorldWideWeb and developed on NeXTSTEP) and the first Web server called httpd (short for HyperText Transfer Protocol daemon).
From the First Website to the Internet Today
The first Web site built was at http://info.cern.ch/ and was first put online on August 6, 1991. It provided an explanation about what the World Wide Web was, how one could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. It was also the world’s first Web directory, since Berners-Lee maintained a list of other Web sites apart from his own. In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As we all know, it then exploded. We had web search engines everywhere: Aol, Yahoo, Ask.com, Google and so on. For users it was and is a brave new world. It is also a huge help for companies. If you’re a purchase manager and you need to look for a part, Google can give you not only a list of companies that produce or supply the part, but often times you can compare prices directly from the sites.
The challenge for companies now is that they want to protect internal data from the outside world, but still need to be able to search that data as if it’s on the web. Enter the Enterprise search tool and desktop search tools. In a way, search has made the circle complete. Enterprise search is a for all intents and purposes a closed system, much like the library systems of yester-year. The major difference is the systems of today are small and efficient and companies realize the value of these tools and servers as a way to generate revenue. Investment by people or companies is the ultimate sign of acceptance and value.