One of the most significant modern innovations, repeatedly awarded four stars by PC Magazine for its applications and ranked No. 1 in Fortune’s Top 100 Best Companies to Work For list two years in a row, Google celebrates its 11th birthday this month.
Merely a preteen in the tech world when compared to Microsoft or Apple, Google jolted to life in September 1998 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin signed incorporation papers in California and set up shop in a small garage. Since then, Sept. 7 has been called Google Commemoration day in celebration of the site’s birth, but Google never set an official birthday.
“BackRub” was the original moniker for the search giant now available in over a hundred different languages, including “Klingon” and “Bork, bork, bork!,” the language of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef.
The co-founders met while attending Stanford University and immediately started collaborating on what would become Google.
“Sergey Brin and Larry Page wanted to stay at Stanford and get their Ph.D.s,” said David Vise, co-author of The Google Story with Mark Malseed. “They reluctantly took a leave of absence to start Google only after venture capital firms, Yahoo and others told them search was irrelevant and worthless.”
Perhaps the earliest manifestation of Google came when Page decided to make a permanent image of the Internet for the purpose of data crunching, or searching computer data to find and organize information.
“Sergey was interested in data mining, digging into large sets of databases to find interesting patterns,” Malseed said. “(He) had this preposterous idea to download the entire Internet to his computer.”
“Shortly after copying the contents of the Web to their computer, Page and Brin crunched the connections between Web sites … the links, not just where a link pointed to, but where the links pointed from. They made order out of chaos on the Web.”
In February 1999, Google received recognition by PC Magazine in its Top 100 Web sites of 1998 because of “an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.” By then, Google had already indexed millions of pages, according to pcmag.com.
In 2000, Google launched AdWords with a mere 350 customers. This program allows other Web sites and Google users to place ads along the side of Google pages for visitors to click. Now more than 150,000 advertisers use this program, according to sitepoint.com.
“The greatest unsung hero in Google’s success is an Israeli named Yossi Vardi,” Vise said. “He suggested to Brin and Page that they put small text ads to the right of the search results. Before that, Brin and Page had written a paper on ‘the evils of advertising.’ After following his advice, they had a blockbuster business.”
Brin and Page didn’t stop with AdWords. In 2004, Google Inc. purchased a little-known digital mapping company named Keyhole. This laid the
framework for Google Earth and Google Maps.
Now, Google has several different applications and programs including Gmail, a free e-mail server, and its own web browser, Google Chrome.
Google skyrocketed in growth after their initial expansion and soon needed a bigger, better work space.
“They aggressively sought out a fun, dynamic workplace,” Malseed said.
Google now has offices across the world. The main headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. is very unique and has been featured in Time magazine as a place that inspires employees to develop ideas.
“The Googleplex feels and looks more like a graduate school campus on steroids than a business headquarters,” Vise said. “They give people the chance to work on anything that interests them 20 percent of the time. This is a great motivator.”
Of course, not everyone is completely smitten with Google’s information monopoly.
Google Watch, created by Daniel Brandt, is critical of Google’s practices. Brandt, in an interview on theage.com in 2005, claimed that Google’s engines “crawl the public web without asking permission, and cache and reproduce the content without asking permission and then use this information as a carrier for ads that generate private profit.” Brandt has called for the ads to be stripped from Google, but to this day, they remain an integral part of the business.
Based on the major accomplishments garnered up until today, the future of Google looks exciting. Recently, the company released a Smartphone and a Web browser rivaling that of Microsoft. Google also announced in July plans of developing its own operating system, according to USA Today.
“Google is filling Microsoft’s shoes as the company to watch in this decade,” Malseed said. “How they manage that growth, how they manage that leadership position is very important to what we’re going to be talking about 5-10 years from now.”
“They’re pushing to get Android, their mobile phone, into people’s hands and develop that as a robust competitor to the iPhone,” he said.
If that isn’t enough to brandish its legacy, Google’s founders each have their own personal desires for the future.
“Larry is especially interested in infrastructure, transportation and clean energy,” Malseed said. “Sergey has a lot of interest in the human body. He has long talked about the power of the human brain as the ultimate computer. I think someday … being able to store your own genetic codes and search it (will be) as easy as you can search a computer file using Google,” he said.
A quick peek at googlelabs.com reveals the myriad of projects that the corporation will undertake throughout the next few years, including a variety of applications for its phone venture, and Flu Trends, which tracks Google searches for the flu in the United States and Mexico.
“Google is the greatest breakthrough since the Gutenberg press made information widely available to the masses 500 years ago,” Vise said.