The first search engine was developed as a school project by Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal. Back in 1990, Alan created Archie, an index (or archives) of computer files stored on anonymous FTP web sites in a given network of computers (“Archie” rather than “Archives” fit name length parameters – thus it became the name of the first search engine). In 1991, Mark McCahill, a student at the University of Minnesota, effectively used a hypertext paradigm to create Gopher, which also searched for plain text references in files.
Archie and Gopher’s searchable database of websites did not have natural language keyword capabilities used in modern search engines. Rather, in 1993 the graphical Mosaic web browser improved upon Gopher’s primarily text-based interface. About the same time, Matthew Gray developed Wandex, the first search engine in the form that we know search engines today. Wandex’s technology was the first to crawl the web indexing and searching the catalog of indexed pages on the web. Another significant development in search engines came in 1994 when WebCrawler’s search engine began indexing the full text of web sites instead of just web page titles.”
The archie service began as a project for students and volunteer staff at the McGill University School of Computer Science in 1987, when Peter Deutsch (systems manager for the School), Emtage, and Heelan were asked to connect the School of Computer Science to the Internet. The earliest versions of Archie, written by Alan Emtage, simply contacted a list of FTP archives on a regular basis (contacting each roughly once a month, so as not to waste too many resources of the remote servers) and requested a listing. These listings were stored in local files to be searched using the Unix grep command.
Bill Heelan and Peter Deutsch wrote a script allowing people to log in and search collected information using the Telnet protocol at the host “archie.mcgill.ca”. Later, more efficient front- and back-ends were developed, and the system spread from a local tool, to a network-wide resource, and a popular service available from multiple sites around the Internet. The collected data would be exchanged between the neighbouring Archie servers. The servers could be accessed in multiple ways: using a local client (such as archie or xarchie); telnetting to a server directly; sending queries by electronic mail; and later via a World Wide Web interface. At the zenith of its fame the Archie search engine accounted for 50% of Montreal Internet traffic.
In 1992, Emtage along with Peter Deutsch and some financial help of McGill University formed Bunyip Information Systems the world’s first company expressly founded for and dedicated to providing Internet information services with a licensed commercial version of the Archie search engine used by millions of people worldwide. Bill Heelan followed them into Bunyip soon after, where he together with Bibi Ali and Sandro Mazzucato was a part of so-called Archie Group. The group significantly updated the archie database and indexed web-pages. Work on the search engine was ceased in the late 1990s.
The name derives from the word “archive” without the v. Alan Emtage has said that contrary to popular belief, there was no association with the Archie Comics and that he despised them. Despite this, other early Internet search technologies such as Jughead and Veronica were named after characters from the comics. Anarchie, one of the earliest graphical ftp clients was named for its ability to perform Archie searches.
A legacy Archie server is still maintained active for historic purposes in Poland at University of Warsaw’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Mathematical and Computational Modelling.