Search Engine History – How Google Came to Dominate

So how did Google get from a market share of less than 1% in 1999 to almost 80% today? What is so special about Google and how has it come to dominate the scene? In this article, the third in my search history series, I look at the role of luck, timing and Buy Google Reviews the mistakes of competitors in the rise of Google. I also evaluate the unique technology and vision at the heart of the Google algorithm.

The Dot-com Shake-out

You might be surprised to hear me moan about the dot-com mania of 1999-2000. After all, for many of us it was an exciting time. However, for the early search engines, it was essentially a death-knell! The new money entering the market was huge but investors wanted to see returns. Search Engines were clearly part of the future, but where was their revenue stream? How could one make money from free results – especially free results powered by very expensive computer infrastructures? This impatience grew following the dot-com crash of March 2000.

Yahoo! seemed to be the only company with any kind of sustainable “pure internet play” (from banner advertising which was at that time well funded by the dot-com dollar). At the same time, AOL were pursuing a moderately successful “walled garden” approach to traffic (i.e. where 70% of searches on the site led to content within AOL properties). The argument at the time was that making it easy for people to “exit” to other sites (the essential purpose of the modern search engine) meant losing the opportunity to sell them anything from your own site and content partners.

Altavista, acquired with DEC by Compaq in 1999, was relaunched at huge cost as a portal competitor to Yahoo! Similarly, Excite (now owned by broadband provider @home) tried to become an AOL clone. Lycos, already the largest “pure portal” in the Spring of 1999, merged with the largest Spanish language ISP, Terra Networks (and then ran itself into the ground).

Disney/ABC and NBC had already invested heavily in Infoseek and Snap respectively but quickly began to realize that the revenue they could derive from the increasingly portal-like services was never going to deliver the short term payback which shareholders typically seek. Steve Bornstein, chairman of Walt Disney Internet Group, said in his press release “the Internet environment has continued to shift and change, and therefore our strategies must also change”. 400 employees at Go Network were laid off and a buyer sought for the Infoseek engine.

In December of 2000 a surprising report from StatMarket.com found that only 6.86% of all the referring traffic to websites originated from search engines (compared to 47.01% from direct navigation or bookmarks and 46.13% from internet links). The quality of this research has since been questioned, as it was based not on server logs but on the global Hitwise stat counter data (the code for which was only placed by many webmasters on the homepage of their site). However, this data came at a time when there was a collective loss of confidence in search and portal technologies. The dot-com crash of March 2000 had left investors with a major hangover.

Is it any surprise, then, that so many search properties disappeared altogether (or closed their internal crawl capability down) in 2001? With the closure of Northern Light (to the public at least) in January 2002, the Dot-Com shakeout had essentially closed or fatally wounded WebCrawler, Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Go Network, Snap and Lycos. It also critically wounded Altavista, who were to struggle on without any real investment in their search capability until their acquisition by Yahoo! in 2003.

Quietly and almost unnoticed during the mania was a relatively minor search player called go-to.com, renamed Overture in 2001. Whilst paid listings had been tried before, Overture (with a 2.76% market share in January 1999) were the first company was make a success of it, with some advertisers paying up to a dollar a click by 1998/9. Go-to.com, in fact, only carried paid results! Personally, I never really liked or used the site myself for that exact reason. However, they persevered with their strategy, determined to find a sustainable revenue model and confident that the research-oriented search engines of the time had little to offer a growing army of web users looking to shop ’til they dropped!

So how did Google get from a market share of less than 1% in 1999 to almost 80% today? What is so special about Google and how has it come to dominate the scene? In this article, the third in my search history series, I look at the role of luck, timing and Buy Google…

So how did Google get from a market share of less than 1% in 1999 to almost 80% today? What is so special about Google and how has it come to dominate the scene? In this article, the third in my search history series, I look at the role of luck, timing and Buy Google…

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