Alta Vista was a very good search engine. I didn't feel like I was missing much in early 90s; I could answer many questions easily. Then, in 1996, I tried Google Search. I was one of the first users at our dot com startup. It was miraculous.
The 90s web combined with 90s Google Search gave us all the best of world's written knowledge. It was the closest we ever came to a universal library.
Things go a bit rougher after the dot com crash. We started seeing more click-driven fake sites. On the other hand blogs were great and Google more or less kept the crap under control. Then came the 10s.
Sometime in the 10s Google gave up. Search results started to incorporate paid placement. Black hats figured out how to bypass Google's quality filters and generate adware clicks. At the same time blogs died and quality content got harder to find. By 2017 we knew we were in trouble.
Today I searched on something people ask a thousand times a day: "How do Facebook Messenger hacks work?" Google suggested a variant phrasing. This is what I got (click for full size):