Are old search engines like Webcrawler still around?

That question came to me the other day and led me on a quest into the Internet's ancient past, all the way back to 1996. I could hear the roars of dinosaurs in the distance.

Yes, there were search engines before Google. The very first ones didn't work the way Google works; you had to know the web site you were looking for.

Webcrawler was the first search engine that worked by looking at the content of web sites without you, the user, being required to know which web sites you wanted. Google works the same way today, only light years better.

I used Webcrawler in my first forays into web search. Then I became aware of Alta Vista and Dogpile. I didn't like the look of Alta Vista; it seemed cluttered. But Dogpile offered search results from every other search engine at the time, which seemed like good service to me.

It was Dogpile that I abandoned for Google.

So I wondered, what became of all those old, dinosaur search engines? I expected that they would be gone, lost in the Internet's past like GeoCities.

But if they are still around, what do they look like?

To see what these search engines looked like around 1999, click each name (these are screen shots from archive.org): Webcrawler, Alta Vista, Dogpile, Excite, Ask Jeeves.  These are only a few of the search engines of the 90's. Others included InfoSeek and Magellan. On some of the screen shots, you can see headlines of the day. My favorite is "Lewinski Talks."

It turns out that most of the old search engines are still with us, but they are sad shadows of their former selves. Here are a few, as they appear today: Webcrawler, Alta Vista, Dogpile, Excite, Ask.

Several are owned by Yahoo! Several others are owned by a company called InfoSpace, which has lasted since the mid-90s and today manages to take in about $350 million a year. Compare that to Google, whose revenue in the last fiscal year was in the neighborhood of $35 billion.

So, just the way one theory says that dinosaurs are still with us, they just evolved into birds (something about both having the same hip structure), the old Internet dinosaurs are still with us. They have evolved into scuttling little creatures that no longer are relevant.

Google was the giant meteor that maybe didn't kill the old Internet dinosaurs, but it sure took them out of the game.