When Larry Page and Sergey Brin first invented Google as a research project, little did they know what an icon it would become. To think that a simple search engine could become one of the largest IT companies out there, catering to millions and billions each day. For many of us, regardless of whether we realise it or not, Google has become part of our lives.
Initially, Google was absolutely nothing, considered useless to many people and companies who preferred other search engines, such as Altavista. Altavista managed to sell the concept of how the web was a huge stack of millions of paper, while Altavista allowed one to pluck one piece out of those millions. The problem with this concept was that the piece of paper that was chosen would, more often than not, be a useless piece of paper because it had absolutely nothing to do with what the user wanted. As time went by, people slowly realised that Altavista might not be the answer to the growing need for an effective search engine, and it was now that everyone’s attention turned to Google’s advanced algorithm and Pagerank system, as it seemed to be the perfect solution. It turned out to be so. The Google search engine began to take the online world by storm during the early part of the millennium, as word spread of its awesome features and effectiveness.
More and more people began to switch over to using Google instead of other more common search engines such as Altavista or Yahoo, which were big players back then that everyone was using. However, slowly, one by one, more and more web users began to see the power and potential of Google, which ultimately led to it becoming the number 1 search engine on the web. Many were also attracted by the constant updates it was making during the early 2000s. For example in early 2003, Google acquired Blogger, thus offering a site where people could set up their blogs for free. It was also in 2004 when Google finally went public, with many people clamouring to get a share in the company. The move to go public only caused Google to strive for even greater products to introduce, for example introducing Gmail in the same year, offering a gigabyte of storage initially, but it’s grown to almost 3 gigabytes now. In 2005, Google introduced Google Docs and Spreadhseet, which are basically online replacements for Microsoft Word and Spreadsheet respectively and allows you to upload, open, edit and share .doc or .xls files. It still has plans up the pipes to introduce a presentations app to act as a replacement for Microsoft Powerpoint. Along the way, Google has continued to acquire even more companies, for example recently in 2006, Google completed a 1.65 billion dollar deal to acquire YouTube, the popular video sharing website, adopting it into it’s huge family of features. Even though Google is already largely considered to be one of the largest IT companies out there, worth billlions of dollars, it’s still not complacent, constantly updating all of its services, trying to make sure that they stay ahead of the crowd.
10 years since it was created, the face of Google has completely changed, especially so in the last 4 years after the company went public. Google is now far from a simple search engine, it offers a huge list of services, one which I wouldn’t know where to start from. Gmail, Adsense, Blogger, Google Docs and Spreadsheet, iGoogle, Picasa, Youtube, Google Desktop, Adsense, Adwords etc. The list goes on forever. Google has definitely become an integral part of the daily lives of millions of people around the world, offering the widest range of features of any site on the web. Nobody else can ever come close to offering services of a similar scope, as Google has built up the required infrastructure and what not over the years and is really the only one both capable and willing to provide such features for web users around the world.
Of course, quite a few other sites also offer somewhat similar similar features to what Google has to offer, so what makes Google so special? It’s usability. Google has always strived to make products with optimal usability for the user, allowing users to just get things done instead of having to bother with troubleshooting their email program. For example many sites all offer email accounts with large amounts of space, Google included, however what has really set Gmail apart from the others is it’s unrivaled speed and user interface that’s so much simpler and easier to use. Even Google’s own homepage is testament to this fact, as is one that I’m sure everyone is familiar with by now, considering how it’s the site where a few hundred million people start surfing the web from. It is an extremely minimalist page, that just gives you a search bar, which is basically what users just want. It hides all the additional power features it has deeper into the site, so that all people get to see is the Google logo, the search bar and a few other basic options. This allows for a very straightforward user interface, not to mention a page that loads incredibly fast. Google understood that once in awhile, downright simplicity is the way to go.
Have I mentioned they know how to have fun? If you want to know how to have fun, just drop by Googleplex and you’ll see what fun’s supposed to be like. “Googlers”, as they like to call themselves, absolutely love the company, why? They have free massages, free haircuts, a pool table, a swimming pool, are able to wear next to anything they want to work, they can bring they’re pets to work as long as coworkers don’t mind…. The list goes on. Googlers just have so much fun at work that they love the company and have no qualms with working. This culture has been largely promoted by the founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, themselves, who have appeared on stage wearing capes and whatnot. The general “fun” atmosphere at the Googleplex has definitely contributed to the wonderful products that have come out of that place.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games when we talk about Google, as it grows more and more powerful, many are worried that it’s becoming TOO powerful. Because of the huge database of information that it has in what’s been termed the “Google Grid”, some have even claimed that it could possibly be a national security threat, which is highly possible. The Googlebot is constantly crawling through the entire web, updating caches it has on every page, not to mention there are targetted ads in Gmail, which means that Google goes through your mail to look at what keywords they should use for the ads. While they do indeed claim that it’s purely for ad purposes, it is still uncomforting to know that someone, or rather something, is going through every single one of your mails. The amount of information that Google has amassed over the years is really frighteningly huge, and while it’s been responsible with this information thus far, it’s still worrying to even imagine what would happen if the entire Google Grid leaked out.
Others are also worried that Google might dominate the entire web if it carries on progressing at the rate that it currently is. Practically everyone who uses the internet nowadays relies on Google in one way or another, be it for it’s search engine or Youtube or Gmail. The steps it has taken to ensure that it continues to lead the industry has also worried many people, for example the acquisition of Youtube, which was actually quite unnecessary. However, that’s what happens when you have too much money, Google’s now searching for more power. That’s what’s worrying many people, that one day, everything we do on the web might be linked to Google in one way or another.
However, consumers now couldn’t care less. We’re just busy enjoying all the benefits that Google has to offer, which are manifold to say the least. Sure, some are worried about what could happen, but we simply don’t want to think about those things right now. We’d rather play pretend and act as if all is fine and alright. To consumers, the benefits that Google are offering outweigh the detriments that could possibly be incurred. Experts have of course realised what could possibly happen, but nobody listens to them of course, why listen when you can get 2.8 gigabytes of storage for your email and “Never have to delete another mail ever again” for free?
Still, there’s no doubt that currently more people love Google than hate it, and with good reason to. For the past few years Google has made all our lives so much easier, with their efficient search engine and amazing services. There have been skeptics of course, but as long as Google continues to be the responsible organisation that it’s always been thus far, I don’t see why this “fun” can’t continue.
(Note: this article was taken from my own previous website, randomusings.com which is now no longer existent. If you have any doubts that this content is mine, please just email me and I’ll show you proof. Originally written by me, spvn, May 2007)Read More