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September 30, 2008

Google Time Machine: the Web in 2001

Google brought back the index from January 2001 to show how many things have changed in almost 8 years. At that time, Google's index included 1,326,920,000 web pages and it was the most comprehensive index of a search engine.

Google explains that the index from January 2001 is the earliest available. "Well, for various technical reasons that are too boring to go into, earlier versions of our index aren't readily accessible. But we did still want to offer users a chance to search an older index as a way of looking back at web history, and the January 2001 index is the best we can do."

As Wikipedia informs us, January 2001 was an important month: Wikipedia is founded, George W. Bush becomes the 43rd President of the United States and Apple introduces iTunes.

A search for Gmail returned results about a Linux mail client and the Garfield email service:

If you search for Google, you'll find references to very few Google services: Google Directory, Google Toolbar and specialized search engines for Apple, Linux, but not yet Microsoft.

In 2001, Google's algorithms were less smart than today:

Unfortunately, Google doesn't use the interface from 2001 and the exclamation mark has been removed from the logo in 1999. Here's an original Google SERP from May 2001, courtesy of Christina Wodtke:

Another anachronism is this error page titled "2001 problems":

For more Google nostalgia, don't miss Google's special site for the 10th birthday.

{ via Blogoscoped }


  1. Some snippets for the query "Google is":

    * "For all of its simple-yet-fun personality (for example, the Google logo dresses
    itself up for holidays), Google is a no-nonsense search tool."

    * "Google is anything but conventional. Even without an expensive advertising
    campaign, it has amassed a cult following."

    * "Over the last few days a subtle error on the part of our home's gateway to the Internet rendered Google inaccessible. I was in agony. I was unable to write reports and actually felt rather stupid without it. I then realized I had effectively undergone a temporary lobotomy: Google is a part of my brain." (more).

    * "Rather than trying to compete with portal sites for advertising dollars -- there is no banner advertising on its site -- Google is working toward improving its search technology and making money by licensing the technology and powering searches on other sites. In other words, Google is setting itself up as an Internet infrastructure company."

    * "Google is a web search engine that avoids some of the noise that you see on
    Yahoo or Lycos."

    * "Google is highly esteemed among hackers for its significance ranking system, which is so uncannily effective that many hackers consider it to have rendered other search engines effectively irrelevant."

    * "The idea behind Google is that traditional search engines are infuriatingly stupid. They think relevance is related to repetition. If you type a request for Tiger Woods, you'll get web sites listed according to how many times those words appear. That's no guarantee of quality and is open to abuse. If you have a Tiger Woods site for fans, just type his name into the source code thousands of times and search engines will list your site first.

    Consider the man-hours corporations spend on online research and multiply that by the increasing chaos of the Web and you see that millions of dollars leak out of the economy without productive benefit.

    Google's answer is to treat the Internet as a democracy with links between web sites as the votes. The most linked-to web sites rise to the top of Google's search results. More weight is given to sites with millions of links themselves. Popularity equals quality, thus a computer program can evaluate what's the good stuff." (more)

  2. My Google searching days began in 2002, 1 year into grad school (M.Sc. in Environmental Science). Serious use of Google products started in 2005. Its amazing how much Google has grown.

  3. there are even better error messages then this one ;-)

    i collected some of them
    In the past we had / Unreliable systems / Try again later. (Haiku)

    Oh noez!! History tubez iz clogged! We unclogz quick.. pz try again, kthx!

    Back in the day, we had to search uphill both ways. Now that we've had a chance to catch our breath, try your search again.

    To verify that you're not a zombie robot from 2001, please type the letters you see in this box [HaPpY BiRtHdAy GoOgLe]: [input /] , then try again.

    Sorry, the series of tubes from 2001 is less robust than today's, and we have a clog. Please try again.

    Sorry, the space-time continuum is temporarily experiencing issues. Please try again later.

    Sorry, you're too short to go on this ride. You must be at least this tall to ride the Google time machine. Or try again.
    (this tall linking to

    It turns out that you're less lucky than you feel. Please try again.

    The hamsters are dancing as hard as they can, but they're seven years older now! Please try again.

    Sorry, it turns out Y2K+1 was the real problem. Please try again.

    2008 called, and it wants its query back. Please try again.

    Sure 1.21 gigawatts was easy to come by in 2001, but we've got an energy crisis now! Please try again.
    (with 1.21 gigawatts link to as used by the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future)

    Unsupported browser. Please upgrade to IE4 (32 MB RAM recommended), or try again.

    Arrr! Belay that query, matey! Yer time machine caught a foul wind and blew ye to the wrong date! I dare ye t' try again.

    Sorry, in 2001, all our base were belong to them. Feel free to try again.
    (all our base were belong to them. linking to

    I hear there's rumors on the internets that Google's 2001 servers are over capacity. Please try again.
    (with link to

  4. Really Cool stuff Alex..

    And too fun also while searching with names,blog names and all.

  5. I really love how they link to the internet archive as well so you can see older versions of sites (if they are there)

    Now if only i had made a google bomb back then... damn.


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