Archie (search engine)
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Type of site
|Web search engine|
|Launched||10 September 1990|
Archie is a tool for indexing FTP archives, allowing users to more easily identify specific files. It is considered the first Internet search engine. The original implementation was written in 1990 by Alan Emtage, then a postgraduate student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Archie has since been superseded by other, more sophisticated search engines, including Jughead and Veronica. These were in turn superseded by search engines like Yahoo! in 1995 and Google in 1997. Work on Archie ceased in the late 1990s. 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.
Archie 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), Alan Emtage, and Bill Heelan were asked to connect the School to the Internet.
The name derives from the word "archive" without the v. Emtage has said that contrary to popular belief, there was no association with the Archie Comics. 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.
How Archie worked
The earliest versions of Archie would simply search a list of public anonymous File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites using the Telnet protocol and create an index of the FTP files. FTP is essentially a way to transfer files between computers. To view the contents of a file, it had first to be downloaded. The indexes are updated 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.
The developers populated the engine's servers with databases of anonymous FTP host directories. This was used to find specific file titles since the list was plugged in to a searchable database of FTP sites. Archie did not recognize natural language requests nor index the content inside the files. Therefore, users had to know the title of the file they wanted. The ability to index the content inside the files was first introduced by Gopher.
Heelan and Deutsch wrote a script allowing people to log in and search collected information using the Telnet protocol at the host "archie.mcgill.ca" [184.108.40.206]. 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 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. 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 ceased in the late 1990s.
- Deutsch, Peter (11 September 1990). "[next] An Internet archive server server (was about Lisp)". Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- Sometimes web search page loads after couple of minutes(!), search still works, although resulting ftp links are most likely dead. Last update of the database: 2011 ()
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- BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Live, 7 November 2009
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- Ledford, Jerri L. (2015). Search Engine Optimization Bible. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. p. 4. ISBN 9780470452646.
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- P. Deutsch, A. Emtage, A. Marine, How to Use Anonymous FTP (RFC1635, May 1994)
- Last surviving Archie web interface - could take a couple of minutes(!) to load