Russia just spent $20 million to create a government-controlled search engine called Sputnik. Despite being developed by the state-owned telecommunications agency Rostelecom, Sputnik already appears doomed. It’s predicted that the search engine will be unable to compete with the leading search engines in Russia (Yandex, Google, and mail.ru). And, the fact that people don’t want their search results censored probably doesn’t help it.
Of course, Sputnik is far from the only search engine to attempt to take down competitors. Google is the biggest threat, at least here in the States. How many times do you say “I’m going to search online”? Probably not as much as “I’m going to Google that”. While Google has become synonymous with online searches, there are some other search engines like Bing, Yahoo!, Ask, HotBot and WebCrawler who have been able to at least keep their virtual doors open. But there’s also many search engines who attempted to take down Google, or at least get in on the search engine action, only to close up shop. Here’s a look at 13 defunct search engines that Sputnik will likely join.
Founded in 1999, SingingFish wasn’t the typical search engine. It was an audio/video search engine for Windows Media Player, WindowsMedia.com, RealOne/RealPlayer, Real Guide, AOL Search, Dogpile, Metacrawler and Singingfish.com. It became a dominant multimedia search engine that was acquired by Thomson SA in 2000, then AOL in 2003. As of 2007, SingingFish directs visitors to AOL.
Officially launching in September 2001, WiseNut was a well-received crawler-based search engine that automatically clustered search results via technology called WiseGuide. WiseNut, however, lacked boolean search in the standard search and did not cache pages. Looksmart spent $9 million to revamp WiseNut, but it never took off and was shutdown in 2007.
LeapFish was a search aggregator that utilized the top three search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) and sites like YouTube and Amazon. In 2009, LeapFish released an update that featured a customizable homepage, interactive widgets, and social media integration. People didn’t take to LeapFish and as of 2012 the domain is up for sale.
Microsoft debuted this animated search engine in 2007. Tafiti (Swahili word meaning to “do research”) had some interesting features including incorporating visuals with common web searches which could be e-mailed or added to a blog, but it was discounted after the release of Bing in 2009.
Launched in 2001, KartOO’s biggest flaw was that it was ahead of its time. Instead of text-based results, this search engine features a visual display interface that was kind of like a map with blob-like masses of different colors connecting each item. In 2004 a new version, dubbed UJIKO, was launched but couldn’t save the engine. In January 2010 KartOO closed down with a small message in French thanking its users for their support. In 2011, the message was taken down.
8. World-Wide Worm
Oliver McBryan at the University of Colorado claims that his World-Wide Worm claims was the first search engine, even though by the time it launched in March 1994 there were already a number of search engines. Regardless, it was one of the early search engines around that obtained or searched for keywords via the WWW. And, that’s pretty much it. It never went much further.
7. Direct Hit Technologies
Direct Hit Technologies was founded in 1998 and was a pioneer in the search engine industry since it ranked sites based on adjusted click-through rates. In January 2000, the site was acquired by Ask Jeeves. For reasons unknown, Ask Jeeves shut the engine down for good shortly after the purchase.
6. Wikia Search
Wikia, formerly Wikicities, decided to launch their own search engine in 2008. Unfortunately for Wikia, Wikia Search could never tackle Google or Yahoo! Users weren’t fans of the small index, poor results and profiles similar to Facebook. Despite some adjustments, people just didn’t take to Wikia Search and the service closed down after only one year.
AlltheWeb opened up shop in mid-1999 after growing from FTP Search, Tor Egge’s doctorate thesis at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It would later establish Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) on July 16, 1997. AlltheWeb, however, never found a following and was sold to Overture in 2003 for an astounding $70 million. A year later, Overture was purchased by Yahoo! and as of 2011, AlltheWeb is redirected to Yahoo! search.
This once popular search engine was founded back in 1994 and was the first to provide a paid-for cost-per-impressions service (CPM). By 1997, Infoseek claimed that it had 7.3 million visitors per month, which could explain why Disney purchased the site in 1998. Disney merged Starwave and Inforseek to form the Go.com network, but stopped powering the service in 2001.
BTJunkie was a web crawler search engine that searched for torrents around the web and stored on its database from 2005 – 2012. In 2011, BTJunkie was the fifth most popular BitTorrent site with some 4,000,000 active torrents.
AltaVista was an early search engine that appeared in 1995 that was innovative for two reasons. 1) It utilized a fast, multi-threaded crawler (Scooter) that covered more webpages than what were believed to exist at the time. 2) It had an efficient search-running back-end on advanced hardware. In 2003, AltaVista was acquired by Yahoo! and was eventually shut down in 2013.
There were some high profile people behind Cuil (pronounced ‘Cool’) which included former Google employees Anna Patterson and Russell Power, as well as Tom Costello from IBM. Cuil had some neat features, like being able to synch up with Facebook and not storing IP addresses or search activity of users. But Cuil often provided irrelevant searches and displayed long entries, and the search engine only lasted from 2008 to 2010.
Is there a search engine that you were a fan of that is no longer in operation? If so, drop us a line in the comments and share your favorite search engine alternative.
Image via Flickr