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Google, Alta Vista, JumpStation...Dublin to host summit on history of web search

Dublin will next week play host to some of the internet’s pioneers as it hosts a conference celebrating 20 years of web searching.

IMAGINE FOR A second a world where you had to go to library to find something out. Or better still when you actually had to remember things. When pub quizzes were fair and college cramming meant double the amount of hard back covered pages.

Google has become one of the most influential companies on the planet by sorting through the billions of web pages on the internet but the origins of online search go back further, but not really that far.

Next week Dublin is playing host to some of the pioneers in the field of web search to celebrate the 20th anniversary of search engines and to look back over the history of information retrieval.

Over 500 delegates,of whom 90 per cent are coming from overseas, are attending the event organised by the CNGL centre for global intelligent content which operates across four Irish universities.

Conference co-chair Dr Páraic Sheridan of CNGL says that internet search has become so common that people don’t think about the years of development that have gone into making it happen:

I think they take it for granted. Whether it’s Google or Bing they use its become so pervasive people take it for granted. They don’t think about the complex research behind it.


Among  the pioneers attending the conference who have influenced the searches we do every day is Jonathon Fletcher, creator of what’s commonly considered to be the world’s first Web search engine, JumpStation. JumpStation started indexing in December 1993 and was the first web search engine that behaved, and appeared to the user, the way current search engines do. To offer a comparison between the volume of traffic it handled and today’s search engines, JumpStation categorised just 3000 sites after six months of operating.

Fletcher, will join senior representatives of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo on the SIGIR 2013 panel on Monday to recall Web search twenty years ago and discuss emerging innovations in web search today.

The keynote address at the conference will be made by John R. Smith of IBM on Tuesday and will focus on how search is adapting to the sharp increase in multimedia content online. Estimates show that images, video, speech now make up 60 per cent of internet traffic and 70 cent of mobile phone traffic.

The tailoring of content is a large part of what modern search experts are trying to achieve and Sheridan believes this is undoubtedly the best way forward despite being asked whether it restricts what people see online:

I think its a positive. A lot of the research is about the delivery of personalised content, people are struggling with the overload of content the and it helps the more we can personalise. People are talking about the search box going away, having the information coming to you rather than you going to look for it.

Sheridan also added that Dublin beat of competition from five cities to host this special 20th anniversary event with the investment in research here and the connection to industry playing a vital role.

The conference begins tomorrow and continues until Wednesday with different events taking place at Trinity College and the Mansion House in Dublin.

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