Google’s the king of search now, but it wasn’t always, and with Cuil it might not always be. Here’s a look back at some of the early kings of searches.


Google has been the 800-lb gorilla when it comes to search engines for several years now. As the biggest search engine company, Google can practically replace the O’s in its name with giant targets as other companies try to get in on the act. Microsoft has redoubled its efforts with and the recent flirtations with Yahoo, but to no avail so far. Yahoo started off being mostly a search engine but has grown to so much more and is only now thinking about search again. Baidu is a recent competitor, but so far has been focused mainly in China.

Most new competitors try to nibble around Google’s edges. Spock, for example, tries to focus on searching for people, especially on social networking sites. Cuil is the new kid on the block, which is daring to take Google head-on with what it calls the world’s largest index and a new approach to grouping search results.

How’s it look? Well, I’m not impressed so far. Neither is Larry Dignan from TechRepublic’s sister site, ZDNet. The results are iffy. You can often get different results each time you type and search for the same term. The site seems to go down a lot. Chalk it up to growing pains and launch problems. Over time, it may get better, but ya’ know what they say about first impressions.

Becoming the king of search

There’s nothing to say that Cuil can’t knock the crown off of Google, just probably not in its current incarnation. That said, however, Google wasn’t always the king either. Other search engines held the title long before Google came on the scene. Some of the most popular search engines at the turn of the century included:

My favorite one in the late 90s was probably AltaVista. It’s still around but is more useful for its Babelfish service now rather than as a search engine. (You’ll notice that Babelfish now comes up as a Yahoo service — Yahoo bought AltaVista several years ago with its purchase of Overture.)

There has been a lot of consolidation in the search industry. Most of the old-line companies have been bought and sold so many times it’s hard to tell who owns whom anymore. And where companies are independent, they use one of the majors to power their search. The notable exception are the metasearch engines like Dogpile and CBS Interactive’s own, which rely on results from multiple sources to begin with.

You can take a look back at the early versions of different search engines by checking out the Old Search Engine Photo Gallery.