Look At How Much Google Search Has Changed Since 1998

Sergey Brin and Larry Page

Photo: Doug Edwards, Xooglers

A  few weeks ago, Google started packing search results with information from Google+, the social network it introduced last summer.Competitors like Twitter were furious at being suddenly demoted in search results, and some Internet pundits complained that Google was now delivering worse results than Microsoft Bing.

But this was just the latest step in a transformation that’s been underway for many years.

Google has turned from “pure” search engine, where the mission was to deliver the most relevant information and then quickly send you on your way, into more of a Web portal—an integrated collection of online services. The basic mission is still to deliver useful information to users and relevant users to advertisers.

But now Google has reason to keep you within its sites for longer.

Take a look at the transformation. …

(A special thanks to Danny Sullivan, who took screenshots of some Google search changes in 2007 for Search Engine Land and posted the images to Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.)

Here's the first Google search page from back in the Stanford days in 1998. Very simple.

And here's what search results looked like for the first few years. A list of blue links with ads on the right side.

On September 11, 2001, Google added links to news stories about the terrorist attacks. Inside the company, this was considered a big deal—some thought it was moving too far away from Google's core mission. (This was before Google News.)

But the really big change came in 2007, with Universal Search. That's when Google started blending results from verticals (like maps, shown here) directly into the list of other relevant links.

Universal Search in 2007 also added videos from YouTube...

...and news stories from Google News...

...and detailed shopping listings, too. (Plus a bunch of other stuff.)

In February 2011, Google started blending Social Search results in with main results. (Previously they only appeared at the bottom.) See here how the top result is based on information a contact posted on Twitter.

Once upon a time, Google just delivered information from anywhere on the Web and sent you on your way.

Then came January 2012. Suddenly, Google started featuring search results from its own social network, Google+. If you're signed in to any Google service, Google+ profiles now show up as you type a query.

If you hate those new personalised results, here's how to turn them off...

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