Alan Emtage (1964– )

Every time we use an internet search engine, we owe a debt to talented McGill grad Alan Emtage. While still at the university he created ‘Archie’, the very first tool used for searching on the internet, before the World Wide Web had even taken off.

Emtage got his first computer in 1981, and entered McGill two years later, pursuing a Bachelor's degree in computer science which was followed by a Master's degree in 1987. Before his breakthrough search engine, Emtage was part of the team that brought the first Internet link to eastern Canada (and only the second link in the country) in 1986.

Implemented with help from Bill Heelan and Mike Parker in 1990, Emtage’s innovative search program was conceived while he was working as a systems administrator for the School of Computer Science. It worked by downloading the directory listings of all the files located on public anonymous FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites, creating a searchable database of filenames. By the end of its first year, Archie (a derivative of ‘archive’) was responsible for more than half of Canada's Internet traffic. His work leads directly to today's Google, Yahoo and Bing.

In 1992, Emtage formed the world's first company expressly founded to provide internet information services with a commercial version of the Archie search engine used by millions of people worldwide. He was also a founding member of the Internet Society and went on to create and chair several working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the standard-setting body for the Internet.

Emtage has spoken and lectured around the world on Internet Information Systems and the impact of the internet on society. He is currently Chief Technical Officer at Mediapolis, Inc., a web engineering company in New York City. He hasn't owned a computer since he parted ways with his Sinclair ZX81 back in 1983. "Computers are my profession," he admits. "But they are not my hobby."