Although we credit Google, Yahoo, and other major search engines for giving us the system we use today to find information, the concept of hypertext came to life in 1945 when Vannaver Bush urged scientists to work together to build a body of knowledge for all mankind. He proposed the idea of a virtually limitless, fast, reliable, extensible, associative memory storage and retrieval system. In fact, a long list of great minds contributed to the development of the information system we use today:
Ted Nelson created Project Xanadu in 1960 and coined the term hypertext in 1963. His goal with Project Xanadu was to create a computer network with a simple user interface that solved many social problems like attribution. While Ted's project Xanadu, for reasons unknown, never really took off, much of the inspiration to create the WWW came from his work.
Theories of Indexing
George Salton was the father of modern search technology. He died in August of 1995. His teams at Harvard and Cornell developed the Saltons Magic Automatic Retriever of Text, otherwise known as the SMART informational retrieval system. It included important concepts like the vector space model, Inverse Document Frequency (IDF), Term Frequency (TF), term discrimination values, and relevancy feedback mechanisms. Search today is still based on his theories.
In 1990, Alan Emtage, a student at McGill University in Montreal, created Archie; the first search engine. It was invented to index FTP archives, allowing people to quickly access specific files. Archie users could use a variety of methods including e-mail queries, telneting directly to a server, and eventually through World Wide Web interfaces. Originally, it was to be named “archives” but was changed to “Archie” for short.
Archie gained such popularity that in 1991 Paul Linder and Mark P. McCahill created a text-based information browsing system that used a menu-driven interface to pull information from across the globe to the user's computer. Named for the Golden Gophers mascot at the University of Minnesota, Gopher tunnels through other Gophers located in computers around the world, arranging data in a series of menus, so that users can search for specific topics.
World Wide Web
Until 1991, the World Wide Web had not yet come into existence. The main method of sharing information was via FTP. Tim Berners-Lee wanted to join hypertext with the Internet and created the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first web browser and editor, called WorldWideWeb. He then created the first Web server called httpd, short for HyperText Transfer Protocol daemon.
The first Web site was built at: http://info.cern.ch/ and put online on August 6, 1991. Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web Consortium in 1994, and the Virtual Web library, which is the oldest catalogue of the web.
Further reading: http://info.cern.ch/default.html