7 Search Engines That Rocked Before Google Even Existed

Joel Lee 30-11-2015

Though the Web became publicly available in 1990, the first web search engine didn’t arrive until 1993. Up until then, all websites were manually tracked and indexed by people.


And while we now recognize Google as the king of web search, Google wasn’t even in the game until 1998. During that five-year gap, twenty other search engines had their chance at glory, and most of them failed. You might even remember some of them.


WebCrawler (1994). Of all still-surviving search engines, WebCrawler is the oldest. Today, it aggregates results from Google and Yahoo.


Lycos (1994). Born out of Carnegie Mellon University and still alive today. Also owns several other nostalgic Internet brands, including Angelfire, Tripod, and Gamesville.



AltaVista (1995). This was one of the most popular search engines in the 1990s, but was acquired by Yahoo in 2003 and subsequently shut down in 2013.


Excite (1995). One of the most recognizable brands back in the 1990s, but has since fallen out of the spotlight.


Yahoo (1995). Definitely one of the strongest pre-Google brands to still exist today. In fact, according to Alexa, Yahoo was the 4th most globally-visited website in June 2015. Impressive!


Dogpile (1996). It has a terrible brand name, but maybe that’s what made it memorable. Today, Dogpile aggregates results from Google, Yahoo, and the Russian search engine, Yandex (which is also older than Google!).


Ask Jeeves (1996). This engine was unique due to its question-and-answer format, plus it had a memorable mascot in Jeeves the Butler. Sadly, Jeeves was eventually phased out and the site rebranded to

How many of these do you remember? Which one was your favorite? Do you still use any of these? Tell us in the comments below! And take a look at a few more unique Google search alternatives 5 Google Search Alternatives to Find Something New You don't need to quit Google. But these Google Search alternatives can help you discover new stuff that you won't see otherwise. Read More .

Image Credit: Search Query by isak55 via Shutterstock

Related topics: History, Web Search.

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  1. Joe
    September 26, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Anyone remember search engine? That was my favorite by far.

  2. Ashish V Borikar
    January 20, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    An active Internet user since 1996, I used Infoseek (which later was labeled '' I believe), Altavista and Yahoo of course.
    Also used a few using Lynx the text browser (Image based browsing was a luxury in those days!).
    Also vaguely remember using wwww = world wide web worm
    Thanks for the writeup which was a nostalgic trip down the memory lane!

  3. Anonymous
    February 26, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    I have tried Ask Keeves.

  4. michael s.
    December 10, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Altavista was THE search engine for me and it is what I taught my students to use. Excite was another; I had even personalized Excite so it had my personal preferences on my homepage. Then one day a colleague said, "have you heard of Google?" It's a new search engine. My response was - the name sounds silly (.. but better than 'Dogpile' of course).
    I no long use any that are on the list, whereas at one time I used every single one.

    • Joel Lee
      December 15, 2015 at 4:30 am

      "Then one day a colleague said, “have you heard of Google?”"

      Haha, I can relate! I'm guessing that's how it went down for a lot of folks around that time. Funny how so many search engines were viable back then... Thanks for sharing, Michael!

  5. Sheepy
    December 10, 2015 at 3:34 am

    I used to use one called Northern Light. It's still around, but it's some business thing, now. What was cool about it back in the day was that when you searched, you'd get a list of search results -- but you'd also have a column down the side with related searches. You could really fine-tune your search with just a couple clicks, with that feature.

    Before that, I was all about Dogpile.

    • Joel Lee
      December 15, 2015 at 4:33 am

      Ooh, Northern Light sounds somewhat familiar... but I can't recall any specific memories of it. Just a vague feeling in the back of my mind. Pretty cool though, thanks for bringing it up, Sheepy. :)

  6. Anonymous
    December 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Hotbot was my go-to search engine, great advanced search features; acquired by Lycos at some point I think, then the inevitable...death by parent company's neglect.

    • Joel Lee
      December 15, 2015 at 4:50 am

      Yeah, it's a shame that so many acquired products get canned like that. RIP!

    • Anonymous
      January 1, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      I still use Hotbot to this day. "The search engine that doesn't track you"

  7. Broderick
    December 8, 2015 at 7:34 am

    Dogpile has been and continues to be my preferred search engine. In compiling results from other search engines it just works well. In addition it is a NW homegrown company which I like to support.

    • Joel Lee
      December 15, 2015 at 4:34 am

      Dogpile as primary engine in this day and age? That's unheard of! But I can respect your desire to support homegrown companies. That's really cool. Thanks Broderick! (Any other companies you like to support for that reason?)

      • Broderick
        December 22, 2015 at 12:03 pm

        It is not just a home town loyalty but Dogpile works great for me. I don't find any better results with Google, Yahoo or Bing. Other than window dressing there doesn't seem to be a benefit to these other engines. Also the visual appearance is more pleasant with DP results.

        I am not trying to sell you on Dogpile but it would be interesting to know what it is that you find better about these other search engines. What is your preferred option (2nd and 3rd choices too) for navigating the wonderful cornucopia of information on the net? It will be interesting to know.

  8. York
    December 8, 2015 at 4:34 am

    Ok, here is the real story. At least 2 years before anyone knew what a search engine was my friend built on dail-up a search engine. The pages opened in 3 seconds. It was then similar to what Google looks like today. I set him up to meet with a group of venture capitalists, but they turned him down. So he moved on. Next he built the model for what was to become day-trading, but was told the SEC would mostly not approve his idea, because it had never been done.
    He is a private person, I will keep it that way. There is so much more. How about a tax free way to double your business income? Or a one page piece of software to test your pages before your post it? That's right one page, point and click!
    Interestingly, I am here with just the truth, nothing to sell.
    I wish I could share possibly the smartest man is the world, but sorry. That is all his decision

    • Joel Lee
      December 15, 2015 at 4:49 am

      Wow, what a story. Lots of shoulda-woulda-coulda's for your friend. How unfortunate. Some might say that ideas are a dime a dozen, but even so, that must be pretty frustrating!

  9. Mike G
    November 30, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    I've used all of them but Alta Vista had a personal version that you could download and use to only search your hard drive. Today I use a standalone program to search my hard drive that is more versatile than the search I have available through my Windows 7 application.

    • Vaad
      December 1, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Could you please suggest me some free standalone search programs?

      • Anonymous
        December 2, 2015 at 8:34 am


        You Can Use ZTREE.

        It Is Free For 30 Days.


      • Anonymous
        December 2, 2015 at 2:20 pm

        For Windows, I suggest a program called Everything.

  10. Anonymous
    November 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    I remember all these, and used them. AltaVista was my favorite because it gave the best results. I recall LookSmart and Metasearch as well.

    • Joel Lee
      December 3, 2015 at 3:25 am

      LookSmart kinda rings a bell! Funny how most of us have used all of these, then Google came along and that was that. Thanks for sharing, Colonel. :)

  11. alpin
    November 30, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    No mention of that company had an amazing search algorithm before yahoo bought them.

    • Joel Lee
      December 3, 2015 at 3:24 am

      Never used that one myself but I'll take your word for it. Thanks, alpin!

  12. Philip Bates
    November 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I've no idea what I used before Google, but Lycos rings a bell. I used AskJeeves mistakenly a couple of times. It was terrible. Like, so so useless.

    • Joel Lee
      November 30, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Lol, it definitely wasn't a traditional search engine. Funny how it's so fuzzy when thinking about a pre-Google Internet.

  13. Anonymous
    November 30, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    " still exi// today."


    • Joel Lee
      November 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      That's embarrassing. Thanks for catching it, Howard. Post has been fixed. :)

  14. B Nelson
    November 30, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I remember all of them. Alta Vista was my default favorite. Also, having started computing in 1990, I remember bulletin boards as our only means of social media. I've seen a plethora of technological advances. Sadly, not all of them have been for the better.

    • Joel Lee
      November 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Oh yes, bulletin boards! Sometimes I miss the old days of the Internet, but then I remember how slow it was... nevermind! :)

  15. Dan
    November 30, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Before Google I primarily used AltaVista and later HotBot. HotBot was actually very good, and was the best of the pre-Google search engines IMO. I'd also use Excite sometimes, if the better engines couldn't find what I am looking for. Lycos had a music search engine ( that was pretty good in finding mp3 files. I only use Yahoo if I just need a directory search, but at least it was better than DMOZ. I also remembered using Infoseek, AskJeeves, WebCrawler, and Northern Lights.

    When Google became available to the public, I adopted it early on and have stayed with them since. Sometimes I'd use another engine, but who are we kidding? Google has the best results.

    • Joel Lee
      November 30, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Those are some nice mentions, especially HotBot and Infoseek. I remember when Google first came out -- I was just a kid, but it was so exciting. It's amazing how quickly it caught on.

      • bill
        February 16, 2018 at 8:24 pm

        everyone passed intomi very early search engine invested big time in the ipo 17000 shares yahoo picked it and gave us .25/share yahoo uses intomi for the web