The Way We Webbed: A Decade of Google -- Oh, the Joy of Cyberpast

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 12, 2008

It's a world without "mortgage meltdowns" and "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

"Patrick Dempsey" is a moderately recognizable actor best known for his role in "Scream 3."

The most popular "High School Musical" is Linden High's production of "Damn Yankees" in northern New Jersey. "Zac Efron" is not involved with that project; as far as we know, he and his guyliner do not exist at all.

This is the world of Google circa 2001, a time capsule adventure available until the end of the month at in celebration of the search engine's 10th birthday. (Google has released the earliest good version of its index available, which, for technical reasons, is from 2001 rather than 1998.)

Spend a few hours trekking through bygone search results, and marvel at how much has stayed the same, yet how much is missing in this online world that once contained everything you had heard of or could possibly want to know.

Spend a few more hours and marvel at the murky nature of history online -- and wonder whether anyone's doing anything to make sense of it.

* * *

In the Googlesphere of 2001:

"Youtube" does not match any documents.

"Lolcats" does not match any documents.

"Sarah Palin" does not match any documents.

"Joe Biden" does, but the primary concern of his Senate Web site in October 2001 is explaining mail precautions for constituents who want to send him letters. Anthrax.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company