Alexa Internet was founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat. The company's name was chosen in homage to the Library of Alexandria, drawing a parallel between the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world to the potential of the Internet.
The company offered a toolbar that gave Internet users suggestions on where to go next, based on the traffic patterns of its user community. Alexa also offered context for each site visited: to whom it was registered, how many pages it had, how many other sites pointed to it, and how frequently it was updated.
Alexa's operation includes archiving of webpages as they are crawled. This database served as the basis for the creation of the Internet Archive accessible through the Wayback Machine. In 1998 the company donated a copy of the archive, 2 terabytes in size, to the Library of Congress. Alexa continues to supply the Internet Archive with web crawls.
In 1999, Alexa was acquired by Amazon.com for about $250 million in Amazon stock as the company moved away from its original vision of providing an 'intelligent' search engine. Alexa began a partnership with Google in spring 2002, and with the Open Directory Project in January 2003. In May 2006, Amazon replaced Google with Live Search as a provider of search results. In September 2006, they began using their own Search Platform[clarification needed] to serve results. In December 2006, they released Alexa Image Search. Built in-house, it is the first major application to be built on their Web Platform.
In December 2005, Alexa opened its extensive search index and web-crawling facilities to third party programs through a comprehensive set of web services and APIs. These could be used, for instance, to construct vertical search engines that could run on Alexa's own servers or elsewhere. In May 2007, Alexa changed their API to require comparisons be limited to 3 sites, reduced size embedded graphs be shown using Flash, and mandatory embedded BritePic ads.
In April 2007, the lawsuit Alexa v. Hornbaker was filled to stop trademark infringement by the statsaholic service. In the lawsuit, Alexa alleged that Hornbaker was stealing traffic graphs for profit, and that the primary purpose of his site was to display graphs that were generated by Alexa's servers. Hornbaker removed the term Alexa from his service name on March 19, 2007. Nevertheless, Alexa expressly grants permission to refer its data in third-party work subject to suitable credits.
On November 27, 2008, Amazon announced that Alexa Web Search was no longer accepting new customers, and the service would be deprecated or discontinued for existing customers on January 26, 2009.