Search Engine Collage


The first search engine on the internet was “Archie” It was created in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Archie was designed to index and retrieve files from FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers. While it wasn’t a traditional web search engine like we have today, it played a crucial role in the early days of the internet by helping users find files and documents across FTP sites.

Pioneering the Web: The Birth of the First Internet Search Engine – Archie

Have you heard about “Archie”? We are not talking about the comics; Archie was the first web engine created in 1990. The credit goes to Alan Emtage, who made the first search engine in 1990.

The 1990s: Birth Of Search Engines

In 1982, a user search engine was debuted, known as WHOIS and the Knowbot Information Service multi-network user search was first introduced in 1989.

However, the first well-documented search engine was Archie, which searched content files like FTP. It debuted on September 10, 1990. The name is inspired by Archive, without the “v”.

The early versions of Archie would search the FTP file transfer protocol files with the help of the Telnet protocol. Archie then creates index files available via FTP. To view the files and their content, one has to download them first. The index was updated regularly. Since Archie could not index the contents inside the files nor recognize the natural language requests, the user must know the file title they are looking for.

The World’s First Internet Search Engine: Archie

Archie allows users to look around the world wide web. It was an FTP file where the users could request search files. After that, they had to download the files to check what they sought. The primary purpose of Archie was to create a centralized database containing the FTP servers. It was designed specifically for indexing FTP archives.

Archie - First Search Engine of the World
Archie – First Search Engine of the World

Over time, more efficient front- and back-ends were developed. And Archie was used not only as a local tool but as a network-wide resource. It was available from multiple sites around the internet. The data that was collected was exchanged between the neighboring Archie servers. One can access the servers in different ways:

  • Telneting to a server directly
  • Using a local client
  • Sending queries by electronic mail
  • Via a World Wide Web interface

Earlier, the information on the world wide web was indexed by hand by a team of experts. But as more and more web servers went online, it was no longer possible to keep up. It does pave the way for future search engines. Google, Yahoo, and other search engines still use several techniques that Emtage and his team implemented. In Canada, over half of all internet traffic was handled by Archie’s 30 servers.

Archie Search Engine Demo
Archie Search Engine Demo

Who Is Alan Emtage: Founder Of Archie

Alan Emtage was born on November 27, 1964, in Barbados. He attended high school at Harrison College from 1975 to 1983. And he graduated at the top of his class, leading him to win the Barbados Scholarship. In 1983, he was admitted to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he studied for a Bachelor’s degree in computer science. After that, he also received his master’s degree in 1991. At the university, he was also part of the team responsible for bringing the first Internet link to eastern Canada.

Alan Emtage - Inventor of First Search Engine - Archie
Alan Emtage – Inventor of First Search Engine – Archie

In 1989 he started to work in the IT department as a systems administrator at the University for the School of Computer Science. There his work was to find information for staff and students. However, finding the information required manual work, as he had to sift through several FTP servers on the internet. It was time-consuming to save himself time, so he wrote a code to do the sifting and digging for him. Later, he named this search engine Archie.

In 1992, Emtage and his colleague Peter Deutsch formed Bunyip Information Systems. It was the first company ever explicitly created to offer online information services. They used the licensed commercial version of the Archie search engine.

From Archie To Current Search Engines

Over the past three decades, search engines have evolved constantly. In the 90s, both search engines and web directories gained popularity, and over time, search engines became the preferred method of internet search. The major search engines developed between 1993 and 1998 and have been getting ever more sophisticated since.

The early search engine, Archie, paved the way for the creation of advanced search engines such as Yahoo (1995) and Google (1997). Interestingly, a single server of Archie is still maintained at the University of Warsaw’s Interdisciplinary Centre. It is generally used for Mathematical and Computational Modelling. Even though the work on Archie stopped around two decades ago, this server is still accessible today.


Summing up, the earlier internet was basically a collection of FTP files that users could pursue to find specific information. Archie was the first index that could organize the content and made it easy for users to look for the files. The WWW became the first choice for accessing information as the internet grew. It is not wrong to say that internet users have much to say thanks to Archie, which paved the way for search engines in today’s digital era.


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