According to a few sources, search engine history predates Al Gore’s invention of the internets. While most sources pin the start of the modern search engine around 1990, SearchEngineHistory.com points out that search technology started as far back as 1940s when an article in The Atlantic Monthly urged scientists to build one collective center of knowledge for all mankind to enjoy. It was the hope that when the technologies were put together in one location, relations and similarites could continue to be drawn.
As for the rest, Search Engines started popping up when internet technology became readily available around 1990 with the invention of Archie – a search engine that indexed FTP archives. This feature as the first online resource that allowed people to find specific information without having to travel around to different websites.
Soon, other sites followed, Alliweb, Infoseek, WebCrawler, Alta Vista, Yahoo!. They all worked about the same – finding content that had the keywords of your search.
Infographics Labs did a great infograph outlining the Search Engine history:
It wasn’t until 1996, when Stanford students Larry Page & Sergey Brin developed a system called BackRub that analyzed quantity and quality of backlinks and threw it into their little search engine called Google did the industry really start to explode.