My first Internet connexion? 1993. At this time, no Chrome, no Firefox, no Google, and a VERY slow modem (my first was a 33.6 kbit/s, with its delicious Krooooiiiii noise at the beginning).
What we call the “Web” was a big mess, Netscape (the browser) was crashing every twelve seconds, and to try to find things, you had to use Lycos or AltaVista. Both were pretty inaccurate. One great source of informations was the Usenet Newsgroups.
Google appeared in 1998 with a simple and great idea, which I just found in the wiki page :
While conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, the two theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships among websites. They called this new technology PageRank; it determined a website’s relevance by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages that linked back to the original site.
Well, therefore, everybody used Google, which is very easy to understand : if you wanted to find the best page about canoes in California BEFORE Google, good luck! Results were a total mess, and the one you needed was lost in dozens of other things…
But AltaVista and Lycos had this : the ability to LOSE you in the web, on little hiking paths. You were constantly discovering little diaries, unknown collectors, fascinating people gathering infos on many subjects, smart web pages… Almost all searches were adventures… because, precisely, or thanks, to the “no ranking”.
This leads to a well known dial :
Today, with Google and Facebook, we all navigate on highways. Most of the time, if you want to navigate on unbeaten tracks, you have to jump out off Google and find links pages, forums or… newsgroups (who use them today?).
Or this great answer to this little question : “How to discover new websites?”
Thanks for reading!