The Decade In Search

by Ruud Hein December 21st, 2010 


2000: Bush vs Gore, Yahoo, Memento, PS2, Survivor, NY Times

  • The web is littered with search engines and directories: GoTo, MSN, Yahoo, Netscape, FAST, Lycos, iWon, Looksmart, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Excite, and others. Many were powered by other search engines, either for primary, secondary, or all results. It was so difficult to figure out who powered whom that Bruce Clay made his famous Search Engine Relationship Chart
  • Google claims largest web index: 560 million fully indexed web pages + 500 million partially indexed web pages = 1 billion+ web pages
  • Yahoo's search results get powered by Google
  • Search engines regularly update the number of documents they have indexed; it is a claim to fame that matters in these days
  • Search happens in search engines and in directories. The two are equally important at this time. Getting listed in directories is a big deal in SEO.
  • Hidden content, doorway & gateway pages
  • Google Adwords launches
  • Dodgeball is founded, the first location-based social network service


2001: WTC, Windows XP, Harry Potter, HP Pocket PC, Friends, BBC News

  • Excite effectively dies
  • Yahoo's price for submission goes up from the $199 one-time fee to a $299/year listing
  • GoTo becomes Overture
  • InfoSeek is shut down by owner Disney


2002: Homeland Security, Lord of the Rings, Heinz, CSI, Friendster

  • Yahoo buys Inktomi (the search tech that powers HotBot)
  • Google News
  • Google Froogle
  • Friendster, one of the first online social networking sites as we know them now, goes live


2003: Raq war, Delicious, Lord of the Rings, iTunes, Mythbusters, MySpace

  • Overture buys AltaVista,  to be left to die further when it's bought by Yahoo later on
  • Yahoo buys HotBot, leaves it to die
  • Yahoo buys AllTheWeb, leaves it to die
  • Yahoo buys Overture
  • Google buys the Hilltop algorithm patent, a patent which describes sorting documents by how authoritative they are – and that based on a match between the query and the anchor texts from other expert pages to the document displayed
  • Taher Haveliwala, author of the Topic-Sensitive PageRank paper, employed by Google
  • Google's "Florida" update sees tons of affiliate sites, cookie-cutter sites & link networks dropped from the first pages. Keyword-stuffing & anchor-stuffing
  • Google introduces keyword stemming
  • Social networking site MySpace goes live
  • Social bookmarking site goes live
  • Reciprocal linking is the name of the game
  • Googe launches Adsense
  • WordPress, a free blogging script, is released
  • Google buys Blogger


2004: Abu Ghraib, Shrek 2, Motorola Razor, Lost

  • Google launches Orkut, a social networking site, after it couldn't buy Friendster. The network was invitation only…
  • Social image/photo site Flickr goes live
  • Social "news" site goes live
  • Google's "Sandbox" effect. Some new sites don't seem to be able to rank at all for months on end.
  • TheFacebook goes live, in 2005 to become Facebook
  • Google IPO of $1.67 billion
  • Firefox 1.0 web browser launched
  • Google introduces Personalized Search for users who are logged in
  • Google's index contains 8 billion pages


2005: Hurricane Katrina, Harry Potter, iPod, Grey's Anatomy

  • Information Retrieval Based On Historical Data patent (Google) approved
  • Google employee Matt Cutts starts blogging, becoming for many years the SEO <> Google liason
  • Video sharing web site YouTube goes live. Here's the first video uploaded.
  • Google buys Urchin, relaunches it a few months later as Google Analtyics, offering enterprise strength web analytics … for free
  • Google buys Dodgeball


2006: Steve Irwin, Where the hell is Matt, Pirates of the Carribean, Wii, Hannah Montana, Twitter

  • Google "Big Daddy" update. Lots of sites get dropped from the main index and are moved to supplemental results due to very low trust in their inbound and outbound links. Many link directories and directory-supported web sites suffer
  • Twitter goes live with this first status update
  • Facebook opens to everyone with an email address
  • Google buys YouTube
  • After having signed a deal agreeing, in principle to censorship, Google China opens


2007: subprime economic crisis, Sphinn, Pirates of the Carribean, iPhone, Private Practice, tumblr


2008: Obama, Dark Knight, Google Chrome, Olympic Games China, Breaking Bad, Bing

  • Google launches its web browser, Google Chrome, with the publication of a comic
  • Microsoft launches its partly new, partly rebranded search engine Bing
  • Google buys DoubleClick


2009: Michael Jackson, Avatar, Windows 7, Vampire Diaries

  • Google "Vince" update factors in trust for some queries. The result is a big push for big brands.
  • Google Caffeine testing begins. It's a new infrastructure for the data that underlies a web index. The index will live entirely in memory. Supplemental index (and thus supplemental results) no longer exist.
  • Google shows personalized to all users, logged in or not
  • Yahoo signs 10 year deal with Microsoft to have its search results powered by Bing
  • Google ads tweets to real-time search
  • Google closes Dodgeball


2010: WikiLeaks, Olympic Games Canada, Toy Story 3, iPad, Shit my dad says, blekko

Looking Back

  • It's almost impressive how Google dropped the ball twice on social: not able to buy Friendster they launch Orkut (Facebook before Facebook) and fumble it… then they buy Dodgeball (Twitter before Twitter) and fumble that. They're never going to recover from either.
  • I remember some of this stuff as if it was yesterday … Hm…. #alarming #memory #illusion
  • Time flies
  • Stripping away shiny objects (preview, autocomplete, etc.) search has changed remarkably … little

What are some of you key memories or events?

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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11 Responses to “The Decade In Search”

  1. Jack says:

    Don't be too hard on Google. They did a pretty decent job. Just look at Youtube. It's already the second best search engine on the web…

  2. Jeff Quipp says:

    Ruud … Google's Florida update was one for the history books. That one had the entire industry up in arms … and right before Christmas. Some speculate the timing was intended to drive AdWords revenues.

  3. Wow, you just reminded me of so many things gone by! It's hard to believe that some of these things were so long ago! No one ever said Google was perfect, but they have certainly done a great job over the years keeping up and pulling ahead.

  4. This is fantastic, Ruud! I remember seeing Bruce Clay's Search Engine Relationship Chart and emailing the link to people. Oh, how things have changed. How many of us email to share anymore…

    Have to keep in mind that Google is one of the reasons many of us have work. Who would have imagined such 10 years ago?

  5. Jim Banks says:

    I remember Teoma having great tech. I remember Google
    seliing their Adwords on a CPM basis and getting buried (best deal
    for advertisers ever). The withdrawal of 15% agency discount for
    PPC agencies onnce Google went over 50% market share. Overture
    giving agencies unbidded search inventory – i.e. these are the
    keywords being searched for that nobody is buying. Grandfathered
    PPC keywords on Overture at 1 cent I could go on….. but it
    depresses me. At least I was there at the beginning of it all! .-=
    Jim Banks recently posted: Affiliate
    Based Ad &amp Search Issues

  6. Gail Gardner says:

    Doesn't it strike anyone else as strange that the big three
    never choose compete competently against each other? It can't be
    lack of money. Could it be lack of talent? Bad Management? By
    intent? .-= Gail Gardner recently posted: Best of GrowMap – Our
    Most Important Posts All in One Place

  7. […] in 2006 that Twitter goes live: the year Google buys YouTube and moves into China, the year Facebook opens […]