The Brief History of google and What’s behind its spectacular success

Before we delve into the Internet’s greatest free app suite, let’s take a look at the history behind Google. From humble beginnings in the late nineties, the search engine giant grew to be one of the largest companies on the Internet. But what’s behind its spectacular success, and what does the future hold for them and for us all?

The Brief History of google and What’s behind its spectacular success ?

Google History and things to know about the giant

Google's lush headquarters offices in California, USA.
Google’s lush headquarters offices in California, USA.

Google’s intentions are clear :

“Our mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

Google’s Mission : Larry Page and Sergey Brin

This has been the company’s key aim since graduate PhD students 24-year-old Larry Page and Sergey Brin, 23, met at Stanford in the mid-nineties, where they soon found a common purpose; finding a way to index and search the net’s already-burgeoning mass of information.

Google Brief History : The beginning (BackRub)

Page and Brin took a new look at the problem, and came up with a solution that was brilliant in its simplicity. Instead of ranking sites according to how many times a searched-for term cropped up, their own search engine (then called BackRub) also checked backlinks to estimate a site’s importance.The pages with the most backlinks were deemed the most important ones. It worked, and the search engine became a success. A change of name soon followed, and the domain google.com was registered on 15th September, 1997.

The brains behind Google: Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin. (Photo courtesy of Google, Inc.)
The brains behind Google: Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin. (Photo courtesy of Google, Inc.)

1998 was a year of consolidation. After polishing and improving Google, they bought up some cheap computer equipment and built their first data centre in Larry’s dorm room. The initial plan was to licence their search technology to other companies, but when they failed to attract customers, Yahoo founder David Filo suggested they found their own company instead. Putting their studies on hold, they searched for an investor, both to finance the company and clear the credit cards they’d maxed out buying the data centre.

Google Inc, History

Sun Microsystems’Andy Bechtolsheim was used to making long-term investments. When Page and Brin met him early one morning in Palo Alto, he was impressed, but in a rush. Instead of talking money, he wrote a cheque to Google Inc. for $100,000 and said he’d discuss the details later. Unfortunately, Google’s founders had overlooked a significant detail.There was no legal entity called ‘Google Inc.’at the time, and no way of banking the cheque. It sat in Larry’s desk drawer for a couple of weeks while they set up a corporation.

The original Google online search front page in 1998.
The original Google online search front page in 1998.

Google Inc. was formally incorporated on 7th eptember 1998 at a friend’s garage in Menlo Park, California. Further investments brought their funds to almost $1 million by the end of the year. Google.com was still in beta, yet it was answering 10,000 searches a day and articles about Google appeared in USA TODAY and Le Monde. In December, PC Magazine named Google as one of its Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines for 1998.

Beginning of the attraction

The company was growing, and it was soon time for a move, to an office in University Avenue, Palo Alto. By now Google had eight employees and was answering over half a million enquiries per day. Interest in the company was growing too. Red Hat became its first commercial search customer, attracted in part by Google’s commitment to running its servers on Linux. Key appointments were made. Netscape’s Omid Kordestani became Google’s vice president of development and sales, and Urs Holze left UC Santa Barbara to take a position as vice president of engineering.

With the company now boasting over 60 employees, Charlie Ayers was hired as company chef, bringing with him an eclectic repertoire of health-conscious recipes developed while cooking for the Grateful Dead. A new round of funding was secured, including $25 million from two leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists. It wasn’t long before the new office was itself outgrown. On the move again, the company relocated to a Mountain View, California site which became known as the Googleplex. On 21 st September 1999, the ‘beta’ was dropped from the site.

Also Read ➡ Beginners Guide : Getting to Know Google, Inc.

Google office culture
Google’s founders have always been keen to preserve a laid-back office culture, avoiding creativity-stifling corporate conditions. When the company moved into the Googleplex, large rubber exercise balls were used as highly mobile office chairs to maximise the flexibility of the workspace. In Google’s earliest days, desks were wooden doors mounted on two sawhorses. Some of these are still in use within the engineering group.

Progress and Improvements

The launch of AdWords

By mid-2000, Google was beginning to show a profit. AdWords was introduced, a paid-for service which allowed keyword- targeted advertising to appear on search pages, as was Toolbar, a browser plug-in which let you search without accessing the Google home page. By the end of the year, Google was processing more than 100 million searches a day.

💲 Is Google a Search Company or an Advertising Company?

Addition of newsgroup postings database

In February 2001, Google integrated Deja.com’s massive database of newsgroup postings and archived them in a searchable format. Over 500 million Usenet postings from the last two decades became available through a Google search, and users also benefited from improved posting, post removal, and threading. Other new search facilities added in 2001 were Image Search, allowing users to look for graphics, and Catalogue Search which facilitated online shopping. More non-English languages were added too – Google now offered a total of 26.

Google News and Blogs

2002 saw two new front-page launches. Google News offered access to 4,500 leading news sources from around the world, and Froogle provided an online price comparison facility. It seems the company was expanding well beyond its search-engine roots. This expansion continued in 2003, when Google acquired Pyra Labs and became the home for Blogger, a leading provider of Blogs or web logs, a kind of online diary in which to share your thoughts with the world.

📩 How to set up google alert to monitor anything on the web ?

Launch of Gmail Service and products upgrade

On April Fool’s Day 2004, the Google site carried what appeared to be two jokes. Expansion plans involving a lunar base were unveiled, and punters were promised a new web- based email service called Gmail, with an unprecedented 1GB of storage space. But Gmail was anything but a joke. Wrong­footed, Microsoft and Yahoo boosted the storage offered by their own web mail services. On 1 st April 2005, Gmail’s first birthday, storage was increased to 2GB.

Several Google services and products were upgraded in 2004. On 13th July the company acquired Picasa, a digital photo management company which (among other things) makes Hello, an application to help Bloggers upload photos to their pages. Google Desktop Search was revamped, and Google Groups launched to handle the Usenet archive which had now reached the 1 billion posts mark.

In June, Google Earth was unveiled, an amazing project that lets users rotate and turn a complete map of the planet, zooming in from outer space to a position a few hundred feet from the ground.The project is so detailed, you can pick out your house, your car and if you’re really lucky, yourself. In a keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Google : What’s in the name ?

The word ‘Google’ is a deliberate misspelling of ‘googol’, a very large number; one, followed by a hundred zeros. The popularity of the search engine has led to the word Google becoming so synonymous with web searches that in 2006, it was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Evolution of Google Logo over time
The Evolution of Google Logo over time

Serial products launches and multiple acquisitions

In January 2006, Google founder Larry Page announced the search giant would head an alliance of Microsoft’s software rivals, offering a free downloadable program suite. This free suite included Firefox and Google Toolbar for Explorer, a move which many saw as an attempt to wrestle the search initiative back from Microsoft, who launched MSN Search in 2004.

🔎 How to Efficiently Start Searching with Google

Google Video, Finance, Calendar and Translate

A brand new Google Video store was also launched, now featuring many titles from numerous partners, and the ability to view or download them using a new Google Video Player. What’s more, filmmakers can set the price and level of copy protection for their productions, giving fans far more variety than was previously available. In March 2006, Google Finance was launched, followed by Google Calendar and Google Translate in April.

The acquisition of YouTube

The company was expanding ever further from its search engine roots, and becoming a major player in the digital lifestyle field. This expansion was further cemented in November 2006, when Google bought online video giant YouTube for $1.65 billion (US dollars). An excellent pairing, today YouTube earns revenue from AdSense, Google’s means of targeting adverts at those who are most likely to prove interested in them.

Andoid System

Arguably its most influential launch came in 2007 when the Android mobile operating system was announced, following Google’s purchase of Android Inc two years earlier. The OS, which was designed for use with a touchscreen, was released in beta on 5th November, with its 1.0 release coming on 23rd September 2008. The first Android phone, the HTC Dream, followed the next month and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Android enjoys over two billion monthly active users, the largest installed base of any operating system.

Google Maps

Google Maps was first launched in beta in 2005, but it really came of age on 25th May 2007, with the introduction of Street View. Starting in the USA, Google sent a fleet of cars through city streets, recording 360° panoramic views which could then be followed on Google Maps.Today almost every major road is covered, but there are still a few hold-outs.

Google Chrome Browser

The worldwide web was always important to Google, but the company had a problem with the browsers used to carry the information. New thinking was needed. On 2nd September 2008, Google’s own Chrome browser was released, first for Microsoft Windows and later ported to Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android.

Chrome introduced many performance-enhancing features, and as Google made the Chromium project code from which it’s derived open source and free, other browser developers can pick up these features to enhance their own software.

Some failed operations

Not everything the company touched turned to gold. In 2005, it had bought the location-based social-networking service Dodgeball, which it discontinued in February 2009 and replaced with Google Latitude. It never really caught on, and was itself discontinued in 2013. Nor was Google’s search engine itself free from criticism.

In February 2011, the New YorkTimes revealed it was possible to take advantage of the way it works, revealing that clothing company JCPenney had improved its search rankings by buying thousands of back links, often on unrelated sites. In response, Google demoted the company’s search ranking.

Another significant failure was Google’s attempt to launch a social networking service to rival Facebook. Google Buzz was launched 9th February 2010 as a combined social networking microblogging and messaging site, it was closed down on 15th December 2011 so the company could concentrate on the Google+ networking site it had launched in June. It certainly made Facebook nervous, but it failed to attract the public in big numbers and was closed on 2nd April 2019.

Chromebooks
Google's 2019 hardware range, the Pixel 3, Home Hub , Pixel Slate
Google’s 2019 hardware range, the Pixel 3, Home Hub , Pixel Slate

July 2011 saw the release of the first Chromebooks. These new laptops ran Google’s new Chrome OS as their operating system. Their main interface was the Chrome web browser, so the Chromebooks were primarily designed for web applications. This, of course, meant they could be made much cheaper; with most files and apps stored on the cloud, you didn’t need a large hard drive, for example.

Google Drive

Computing was further democratised, and taken further onto the cloud. Expanding its range of online services still further, Google Drive was launched in April 2014. Accessed through a web interface or apps with offline options for Macs and Windows PCs, Google Drive allowed users to sync documents and data across devices, and work on them from any computer with Internet access.

The service comes with 15GB of free storage space, with more available on payment plans. The Google Drive suite includes Google Docs (word processor), Google Sheets (spreadsheet app) and Google Slides (presentation program).

Robotics and artificial intelligence

Google invested further in the robotics and artificial intelligence field when, on 26th January 2014, it acquired the London-based DeepMind Technologies. The company claims to combine machine learning and systems neuroscience to create general-purpose learning algorithms, something that could well be useful in Google’s self-driving cars.These cars, called Waymo, are not yet on sale but have already been extensively test-driven on public roads.

Google Photos expansion

On 28th May 2015, Google Photos emerged from the wreckage of the Google+ social network. As well as giving unlimited storage free of charge for photos of up to 16 megapixels and videos up to 1080p resolution, Google’s algorithms search the pictures for faces, places and objects, allowing users to search for, say, all pictures showing a ball. It was greatly expanded in May 2017, and now offers reminders for sharing photos, shared photo libraries and physical albums.

Google Wallet, Play & Android Pay

11th September 2015 saw the launch of Android Pay, a digital wallet platform and online payment system made to compete with Apple Pay, which had launched just under a year earlier. At launch, it was compatible with around 70% of Android devices, and was accepted at over 700,000 outlets.

In January 2018, it merged with peer-to-peer payments service Google Wallet to create Google Pay, which is today accepted at over 1.5 million locations. In perhaps its most ambitious move to the cloud yet, Google Stadia is a forthcoming game streaming service where the processing takes place on Google’s servers, meaning the end user can play games far more advanced and system-hungry than their computer or mobile device could handle.

In fact, Stadia games should be playable on anything capable of showing a video. Announced in October 2018 when Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was shown running on the service in closed beta, Stadia is capable of streaming video games in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. We can expect a full release in late 2019.

The Cloud is the limit

And the future? We can expect Google to go from strength to strength, with more products and services relating to online computing.The long-awaited self-driving cars should come to fruition in the early 2020s, and having acquired at least eight robotics companies over the years, we should expect releases in the robot field too. Maybe we will see Google in space? It’s not as far-fetched as you think. Google has leased a NASA airfield for 60 years at a cost of $1.16 billion, and the company is already offering a reward of $20 million to anyone who can send a robot to the moon, have it move at least 500 metres and send back HDTV streams to Earth. A modular phone you can upgrade in parts is planned, as is real-time 3D mapping on handheld devices. Whatever Google does next, one thing’s for sure.The sky – or perhaps the cloud – is the limit.

The Google Timeline

  • 1995: Google founders meet at Stanford. 15th September, 1997: The domain google.com registered. 7th September 1998: Google, Inc formally incorporated. 21 st September 1999: Google is officially out on beta. 23rd October 2000: AdWords introduced. 12th July 2001 : Google Image Search introduced.
  • September 2002: Google News launches.
  • December 2002: Froogle launches.
  • February 2003: Google acquires Blogger.
  • March 2003: Google AdSense launches. 1st April 2004: Gmail announced. 19th August 2004: Google goes public. 13th July 2004: Google acquires Picasa. 11th May 2005: Google Mini, micro version of the Search Appliance, launched.
  • June 2005: Google Earth launches. 7th October 2005: Google Reader launches.
  • January 2006: Free program suite announced, including Firefox and Google Toolbar for Explorer. 21st March 2006: Google Finance launches. 13th April 2006: Google Calendar launches in beta. 11 th May 2006: Google Trends launches.
  • April 2006: Google Translate launches.
  • November 2006, Google buys YouTube. 5th November 2007: Android launches in beta. 23rd September 2008: First full release of Android OS. 2nd September 2008: The Chrome browser released.
  • February 2009: Google Latitude is launched.
  • July 2009: Chrome OS announced. 9th February 2010: Google Buzz launched. 5th January 2010: Google’s first smartphone, the Nexus One, launches.
  • May 2011 : First Chromebooks appeared.
  • June 2011 : Google+ launched. 15th August 2011 : Google buys Motorola Mobility. 24th April 2012: Google Drive launches. 13th March 2013: Google Reader closes. 4th October 2016: Google releases their first smartphone the Google Pixel. 28th May 2015: Google Photos launches. 11 th September 2015: Android Pay launches.
  • July 2017: Google Home launches. 8th January 2018: Android Pay and Google Wallet merge to create Google Pay. 24th July 2018: AdWords renamed Google Ads.
  • October 2018: Google Stadia demoed. 2nd April 2019: Google+ closes.
  • Late 2019: Google Stadia scheduled to launch.

🔎 Life at the Googleplex

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