Google lets users search like it’s 2001

Heather Havenstein
6 October, 2008
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As part of Google’s ongoing 10th anniversary celebration, the company is providing access to a 2001 version of the Google search index, allowing users to search the Web circa January 2001.

Although Google is officially celebrating its 10th birthday this year, due to various “technical reasons” the oldest index it could easily access was the 2001 version, the company said.

“Amazingly enough, hidden in a corner beneath Larry’s and Sergey’s original lab coats, we found a vintage search index in mint condition,” noted Google in a blog post. “We dusted it off and took it for a spin, gobsmacked to see how different the web was in early 2001. ‘iPod’ did not refer to a music player, ‘YouTube’ was nonsense, and if you were looking for Michael Phelps, chances are you meant the scientist, not the swimmer. [And] “Wikipedia” was brand new.”

Google also announced this week that it is launching a new service to track the growing number of blog posts surfacing on the Web. Today, Google turned up more than 3.8 billion results for the word “blog”; in 2001 a mere 76,000 results were indexed for the word.

Google worked with the Internet Archive project that is aiming to preserve digital media to link with their cache of the pages from 2001 so users can see full versions of old Web pages.

When Google 2001 users click on any of the Web page results, they get today’s live results. If they click on the link to “view old version on the Internet archive” they are taken to the earliest 2001 copy of that Web page on the Internet Archive.

While Google acknowledges that the index isn’t an exact reproduction of the 2001 version, it said it is a “pretty good” approximation. If Google has received a confirmed request to remove a Web page, that page will not be shown in the results, the company added. The site will be available for one month.

Philipp Lenssen, a blogger at Google Blogscoped, noted that Google 2001 provides a very interesting take on the past.

“You can get a feeling for what the Web was like back then, what topics were as of yet unknown or little talked about, and – provided the ranking order is the exact same as it was in 2001, which I’m not entirely sure about,” he added. “You can also evaluate how well Google ranked results back then.”

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