It seems hard to imagine a time before Google. A major player on the internet stage for many years, the word ‘Google’ has been transformed into a verb, showing the huge importance that this internet giant holds for us all. Along with Hoover and Biro, this is a brand that transcends the company it represents, passing into the language as a generic term. We ‘Google’ something even if we use an alternative search engine.
But there was a time back in the 1990s when Google had yet to be invented. The internet was still relatively new, although it was growing in popularity at an astonishing rate, but the technology was still very much in its infancy. We’re talking about a time before laptops and flat screens, when computers had bulky hard drives and monitors were as deep as they were wide.
Look Back in Wonder
If you struggle to remember those dim and distant days – or perhaps you were still too young to recall them – it makes interesting viewing to look back on screenshots from those early web pages. The Wire has some wonderfully pared down examples on its site that show how very simple life was back then.
In a similar vein, The Register as some screenshots from pre-Google days, starting with Alta Vista, which was one of the go-to search engines from around the mid-90s.
These were the days of dial-up connections, when your service provider supplied you with a portal page designed to steer you through web pages through a system of directory entries. Search boxes usually came with the words ‘powered by..’ to show the search engine being used, but they were sketchy affairs.
In those early days, it was important to remember web addresses. These would be given out over the television, incorporating the ‘http’ prefix and a series of letters, words and slashes that needed to be written down before they were forgotten. If you liked the page once you found it, then it was a matter of bookmarking it for easy reference on future occasions.
Searching for Information
When Google came on the scene, it fairly quickly changed the way we interacted with the World Wide Web. By using web crawlers – software that trawled through every web page – Google was able to point people quickly and easily to the information they were interested in.
Search terms made life even easier, as now it was possible to look for website design in Dyfed or Stratford, or whichever town was applicable, and instantly access a list of results. In just a couple of clicks, you could find web designers such as Leicester web design agency Pixel Utopia without having to trawl through a long list of directory entries.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who developed Google, continued to refine their search engine, developing keywords and search terms that made finding the information you wanted even easier. PageRank was created to determine the popularity of a site based on links. It’s a little-known fact that the ‘Page’ in PageRank doesn’t refer to the web page but is actually named after its inventor, Larry Page.