What is Google?

What is Google? A better question might be what isn’t it? This corporation has grown from a small startup to the most influential company on the Internet. It began as an idea in 1996 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who met at college, formed the search engine BackRub for Stanford University. In 1997, they renamed their program “Google” as a play on the word Googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Google describes the motivation for this name as a reflection of their mission to “organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.” Before their search engine came along, Internet searches turned up thousands of irrelevant results before users could find what they sought.

The company has become so popular since its inception that many now spell googol as Google. Almost everyone now knows this once obscure term. It’s not only a noun, it’s now a verb. Want to know who won the alpine downhill skiing gold medal in 2006? Just Google it. Looking for your long lost high school sweetheart? Just Google his name. The convenience of searching and finding just what you are looking for has led to Google’s enormous popularity. The search engine seems to deliver more relevant results than any other does, which is why it is so commonly used. It has the highest rating of any search engine, taking up nearly half the search market, followed by Yahoo, taking a 25% share of Internet searches.

The Google Science

what-is-google

So how does Google do it? Initially, they simply set “page ranks” which ordered websites by how many other sites linked to them. These links are called back links, thus the initial name, BackRub. Later, they added algorithms to rate pages on other criteria. Some of these formulas well-kept secrets, but others are widely known. One algorithm looks at keyword density, which is how many times a search term appears on a web page. The pages rank is affected by how well that keyword, or search term, matches with titles, domain names, headers and other parts of the page to determine its relevancy to the search.

The Google Business

After unsuccessful attempts to sell the technology to existing search providers, Sun Microsystems handed Google founders a $100,000. They hadn’t even finished their pitch yet. In fact, they weren’t even an official company yet. Other venture capital checks started pouring in and Google amassed almost $30 million from investors by 1999. Then they stepped out into the real world with the Google website.

Early Google Revenue Model

When Google was no more than an intellectual pursuit, Brin and Page scoffed at the idea of making money through advertising. They could not imagine why anyone would pay to be listed in search results. Ironically, advertising revenue is now the bulk of Google’s business. When you search a term on their site, notice the highlighted “Sponsored Links” search results at the top and the column of sponsored links on the side. Each time there is a click on one of these links, Google hears the cha-ching of the cash register.

Early revenue models for search engine advertising under Google’s AdWords program were for fixed fees, charging advertisers by how many thousands of visitors went clicked on an ad. In 2000, the company changed its strategy to pay per click marketing, commonly known as PPC, where advertisers paid each time a user clicked on an advertisement. This model was already being used by Overture, once the most popular search engine. The company unsuccessfully sued Google for patent infringement after America Online dropped Overture for Google.

Microsoft Looms

By 2001, the dreaded Microsoft had Google in its sights. Company founders knew they needed to take action if they were to survive a Microsoft attack, so they hired CEO Eric Schmidt to lead the fight. Schmidt had battled Microsoft before while working for Sun Microsystems and Novell. Founders also took on a strategy of amassing revenue to fund acquisitions and build the company’s strength. It worked.

Since then, the company has devoured the most promising startups on the web. It has become the dream of Internet startup’s everywhere to be acquired by Google and retire young and happy in the Bahamas. You may be familiar with some of the companies Google has acquired. They are sites like Blogger, YouTube, Orkut, Postini and DoubleClick.

The company has also released many of their own “Google” programs like a toolbar, Image Search, Labs, News, Froogle Product Search, Grants, Book Search, and Local. Still other applications were formed from technology acquired through buying startups. One example of this is AdSense, based on technology from Applied Semantics.

Google Today

Google is now a global company with offices in Tokyo, Sydney, Dublin, Bangladore and other locations worldwide. At its IPO in August 2004, shares sold for $85 each. In the last five years alone, Google has emerged with new “Google” brand products like SMS, Desktop Search, Scholar, Maps, iGoogle, Blog Search, Reader, Gmail, Finance, Calendar, Trends, Checkout, and the list goes on. They also released a popular photo-sharing site called Picasa. Many of these technologies have also been released for mobile devices, like the popular Google Suggest, which debuted with the iPhone 3G. The company even developed a platform for mobile devices called Android and collaborated with T-mobile to create the phone, G1. They also launched their own web browser called Google Chrome.

Google acquired Keyhole, a company whose technology was used to establish Google Earth. They bought Urchin for its technology and created Google Analytics. The company Writely was acquired in order to create Google Docs. Google bought JotSpot for a wiki platform that became Google Sites. They also acquired companies dMarc, YouTubem, Postini and DoubleClick. The company accomplished all of this in just five years. Google is now every-present in the information age. Chances are, if there is a way people are communicating over the Internet, Google is a part of it.