Definition of Archie

Archie is an early internet search tool, primarily used for locating files on public File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers. Developed in 1990 by Alan Emtage, a computer science student at McGill University, it was the first internet search engine of its kind, predating the World Wide Web. Archie functions by periodically indexing FTP servers and building a searchable database, allowing users to find specific files using keywords.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Archie” is: /ˈɑrki/

Key Takeaways

  1. Archie is considered the first search engine created for the World Wide Web, launched in 1990.
  2. It was developed by Alan Emtage, Bill Heelan, and Mike Parker at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
  3. Archie indexed text-based files, specifically focusing on public FTP archives to provide users with a directory of downloadable files.

Importance of Archie

Archie is considered an important technology term because it marks the foundation of search engine technology in the early days of the internet.

Developed in 1990 by Alan Emtage, J.

Peter Deutsch, and Bill Heelan at McGill University in Montreal, Archie was primarily an indexing system that allowed users to locate specific files on public File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers.

The system constantly indexed and updated its database so that users could search through FTP servers using a simple keyword-based search.

As the precursor to search engines we use now like Google, Archie played a significant role in shaping information retrieval from the internet and has been influential in the evolution of search technology.


Archie is considered the pioneer in the world of internet search engines and can be credited for laying the groundwork for more advanced search engines that we use today. Launched in 1990, Archie was designed to help users search and locate specific files within public File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites.

Its purpose was to address the challenges faced by researchers and users, looking for resources across an increasingly vast network of servers. With the growing number of FTP servers and files, it became crucial to develop a tool that made searching for files more efficient and accessible, as manually searching for them across servers was arduous and time consuming.

Archie’s implementation involved periodically indexing and cataloguing the file listings of numerous FTP servers and keeping a searchable database of these files within a centralized location. Users could then send a query seeking a specific file, and Archie would inspect its database to provide the relevant file listing and the server on which it could be found.

Although primitive in comparison to modern search engines, Archie exemplified the value that such searching tools could provide by paving the way in effectively aggregating and finding data. As the internet grew and evolved with the addition of the World Wide Web, search engines like Lycos, AltaVista, and eventually Google, built upon Archie’s foundation and further revolutionized the way people search, locate, and share information across the digital realm.

Examples of Archie

Archie is considered as the first Internet search engine, introduced in September 1990 by a team of developers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. It was designed to index File Transfer Protocol (FTP) sites and provide a simple way to search for resources located on those sites. Here are three real-world examples of the application of Archie:

Academic research: During the early 1990s, academics and researchers used Archie to search for and locate technical papers, source codes, and other research-related documents on FTP servers worldwide. It enabled researchers to find resources without having to manually navigate through each individual server.

Software and file downloads: In the era before dedicated software download websites, users relied on Archie to find software, documents, and media files available on public FTP servers. By typing a keyword or filename, users could locate relevant files without having to know the specific server addresses.

Internet evolution: Archie’s success prompted the development of other search technologies that indexed different types of content on the internet, like Gopher, Veronica, and Jughead. These search technologies paved the way for modern search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, shaping the way users navigate the web today.

FAQs about Archie

What is Archie?

Archie is considered the first search engine, created in 1990 by Alan Emtage. It was designed to index FTP archives, allowing people to find specific files. The name “Archie” is derived from the word “archive” without the ‘v’.

How did Archie work?

Archie used a script-based data gatherer to collect information about files available on public FTP sites. This information was then stored in a searchable database. Users could then access the Archie server and search for files using regular expressions as search parameters.

Why was Archie important?

Archie was the first-ever tool of its kind to enable users to search and find specific files on the internet. It was a groundbreaking innovation that paved the way for the development of modern search engines and revolutionized how people interact with the internet.

What happened to Archie?

As the internet grew rapidly in the 1990s, Archie’s limited capabilities became insufficient for the increasing demand for better search tools. Newer search engines like Excite, Lycos, and eventually, Google emerged and surpassed Archie in terms of indexing and searching capabilities. Archie’s popularity gradually declined, and it eventually became obsolete.

What was the impact of Archie on the development of search engines?

Archie laid the foundation for more complex and powerful search engines. Its innovative concept of indexing files on the web and making them easily searchable sparked the development of numerous search engines that followed. The need for more powerful search tools led to advancements in search algorithms, information retrieval techniques, and user interfaces that are still evolving today.

Related Technology Terms

  • Archie Search Engine
  • FTP Archives
  • Pre-World Wide Web
  • Archie Query Language
  • History of Internet Search

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