Nice overview of the evolution of search. In 1995–96 I had a column in a screen printing trade magazine that was designed to teach people in the industry about the Internet. My topics would be, “What is a browser?” and “How does email work?” and other very basic things that were all new.
One of these was “What are the 25 Top Search Engines?” in which I listed 25 and wrote a paragraph about each one. Webcrawler, Inktomi, etc. I compared search engines to a librarian and the internet to a library in which all the books were in a pile in the middle of the room and you had to find what you were looking for, with no Dewey Decimal System.
And so there were entrepreneurs who intervened and said, “Pay us money and we’ll make sure your website gets listed in all the search engines. Otherwise you will never be found.”
Naturally, Google’s birth took out those folks.
Hard to believe Google came along a couple years later (seemingly too late to a crowded field) and “ran the table.” They exploited weaknesses in the existing system.
Fast and Cheap was the game. Their home page had no advertising and was clean. And when you did a search it boasted how many links they found for you and how quickly. It loaded so fast that I borrowed the source code to write a new home page for myself that would also load fast and stay clean.
As you point out, they changed the playing field so that everyone who used the search engines at all quickly saw, and appreciated, its power.