Archie Like Indexing for the WEB

ALIWEB is one of the first web search engines and was developed in 1993 by Martijn Koster at NEXOR, a British company. At that time, web wanderers (such as WebCrawlers) began to automatically index the web and collect more or less available information about web pages. These crawlers influenced/interrupted the web and the processing of websites, so there were discussions about their use. ALIWEB tried to offer an alternative solution without automatically crossing the Internet. The idea was that the providers themselves described their locations and services in a file and provided this information to ALIWEB. While these files are now standard as part of a web site, they were not available at the beginning of the web. ALIWEB first used its own format for the index files, but then switched to the IAFA template. ALIWEB retrieves the files and combines them into a searchable database. Updated once a day, the index and database were very up-to-date.

The problem was that not enough people reported their pages to reach a critical mass of information. Therefore ALIWEB started a cooperation with the CUI W3 catalogue, which uses ALIWEB as source and integrated ALIWEB into the CUI W3 page. Nierstrasz, the CUI W3 catalog maintainer, also suggested registering with ALIWEB, and after presenting ALIWEB at two conferences in 1994, his popularity grew. ALIWEB has been managed by EMNET (East Midlands Network Limited) since about 1999. Since ALIWEB was only accessible from a single location with low connectivity, mirror sites were offered by ATC (Advertising Technologies Corporation of Alberta, Canada) at the Wolfenbüttel University of Applied Sciences (Germany), the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya DAC-UPC (Spain) and the National University of Singapore. The last mirror page is still available, but doesn't seem to be maintained anymore, many links are closed and the search results come from an old index, I think [see the sources below on this page].

Language English

Launched November 1993
Closed No

Developer Koster, Martijn

Country of Origin UK

1993 - 1999 NEXOR
1999 - 2003 EMNET
1997 - [...] Advertising Technologies Corporation

Topic Universal

Region No Limitation

Technical functionalities
Crawler-based, algorithmic SeEn

Used SeEn Aliweb

Older Version Internet Archive / WebCite

»ALIWEB (Archie Like Indexing for the WEB) is considered the first Web search engine, as its predecessors were either built with different purposes (the Wanderer, Gopher) or were literally just indexers (Archie, Veronica and Jughead). First announced in November 1993 by developer Martijn Koster while working at Nexor, and presented in May 1994 at the First International Conference on the World Wide Web at CERN in Geneva, ALIWEB preceded WebCrawler by several months.

ALIWEB allowed users to submit the locations of index files on their sites which enabled the search engine to include webpages and add user-written page descriptions and keywords. This empowered webmasters to define the terms that would lead users to their pages, and also avoided setting bots (e.g. the Wanderer, JumpStation) which used up bandwidth. As relatively few people submitted their sites, ALIWEB was not very widely used.« Source

Today Advertising Technologies Corporation use the code, data and name from ALIWEB.
Notes by Martijn Koster: »I have nothing to do with It appears some marketing company has taken the old aliweb code and data, and are using it as a a site for advertising purposes. Their search results are worthless. Their claim to have trademarked "aliweb" I have been unable to confirm in patent searches. My recommendation is that you avoid them.« Source

Wall, Aaron: »In October of 1993 Martijn Koster created Archie-Like Indexing of the Web, or ALIWEB in response to the Wanderer. ALIWEB crawled meta information and allowed users to submit their pages they wanted indexed with their own page description. This meant it needed no bot to collect data and was not using excessive bandwidth. The downside of ALIWEB is that many people did not know how to submit their site.« Source


The »architecture of ALIWEB is very similar to that of Archie, hence the name Archie-Like Indexing in the WEB.« Source

Critical points

»The downside of ALIWEB is that many people did not know how to submit their site.« Source

Features & Functionality

»Go ahead and specify as many keywords as you can think of. It won't slow the search down that much, and increases the chance of finding what you want.

If you specify max=200 or some other value n as a keyword, the best n matches will be returned. The default is 50.

If you specify mink=3 or some other value n as a keyword, only items matching at least n keywords will be displayed. The default is 1.

Matches are constrained to word boundaries at the beginning, but not at the end, so cogniti will match cognitive and cognition and meta-cognitivization but not subcognition. Thus, it's usually a good idea to specify just enough of the keyword to be unique.

Matches are done in a case-insensitive fashion.

Only alphanumeric characters, underscore, and hyphen are ``recommended'' characters within keywords. Most other characters should be escaped with a backslash; for instance, to search for information on C++, you would specify C\+\+ as a keyword. People who know perl regexp syntax may use fancier stuff; details here.

Remember WWW is world-wide. Some places say visualization while others spell it visualisation (and some places don't say it in English at all.) That's another reason to just specify, say, visuali as the search keyword.

Boolean and and or are not supported; a heuristic for matching maximal keywords (which I think is preferable to simple booleans) is used. If you really want boolean-style searches, they can sometimes be simulated; for instance, a search for foo and (bar or baz) can be done by specifying keywords foo foo bar baz mink=3.

Boolean not is available, however. If a keyword begins with ! it is interpreted as a negative keyword; for example, if you want to know about data networks but not neural networks, you might specify network !neur as keywords.« Source


Example results page for "sand" Source

References & further Publications

Wikipedia (EN):
Wikipedia (Others): n.a.

Other Sources

Wall, Aaron: History of Search Engines: From 1945 to Google Today. Online available at: Search Engine History. URL:
Koster, Martijn (1994): ALIWEB - Archie-Like Indexing in the WEB. In: Computer Networks and ISDN Systems (Vol. 27, No. 2, p. 175-182). Online available at: Martijn Koster's Pages. URL:
Introduction to ALIWEB URL:
History of ALIWEB URL:
WIRED 2.05 Surf Team (1994): Webbed Feet URL:
Internet-Guide (2017): ALIWEB URL:

Created: 2013-01-15