In 1998, Google made its official debut, courtesy of the brilliant minds of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Their brainchild, Google Search, has since risen to become the most widely used web-based search engine. These two visionaries, who were then students at Stanford University in California, began their journey by crafting a search algorithm in 1996. Initially known as “BackRub,” their project received invaluable assistance from Scott Hassan and Alan Sternberg.
The nascent search engine swiftly proved its mettle, prompting the company to relocate multiple times before finally settling in Mountain View in 2003. This marked the onset of a dynamic growth phase. In 2004, Google took the world by storm with its initial public offering, swiftly evolving into one of the globe’s largest media conglomerates. Along the way, Google introduced a range of groundbreaking products, including Google News in 2002, Gmail in 2004, Google Maps in 2005, and Google Chrome in 2008. In 2011, the company unveiled the social network, Google+, which, regrettably, was closed down in April 2019.
In a continuous quest to improve its search engine, Google underwent numerous updates aimed at thwarting search engine optimization practices. Moreover, the company fostered strategic collaborations with notable entities like NASA, AOL, Sun Microsystems, News Corporation, and Sky UK. In 2005, Google also established a philanthropic arm known as Google.org.
The name “Google” itself is a clever spin on the term “Googol,” which represents the number 1 followed by a staggering 100 zeros. This name choice symbolized the search engine’s ambition to provide an immense wealth of information to its users.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that in 2015, Google assumed the role of the primary subsidiary under the umbrella of Alphabet Inc., the parent holding company.
Origins of Google
Google’s inception can be traced back to the year 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin embarked on a research project known as “BackRub.” At the time, both were pursuing their Ph.D. degrees at Stanford University in Stanford, California. A third key contributor to the project, Scott Hassan, initially played a vital role as the lead programmer responsible for crafting a significant portion of the code for the original Google Search engine. However, Hassan eventually parted ways with the project before Google’s official establishment as a company. He later ventured into the field of robotics and founded Willow Garage in 2006.
The project’s genesis lay in Larry Page’s quest for a dissertation theme. Page contemplated various ideas, but his fascination with exploring the mathematical intricacies of the World Wide Web’s link structure, essentially treating it as an expansive graph, began to take shape. His academic advisor, Terry Winograd, endorsed this idea, a decision Page would later describe as “the best advice I ever got.” Page’s focus was directed towards the challenge of identifying the web pages that linked to a particular page. He recognized the significance of the number and nature of these backlinks as valuable indicators of a page’s relevance, drawing an analogy to citations in academic publishing. This concept was shared with Scott Hassan, who took the reins in coding Page’s visionary ideas into reality.
This endeavor was affectionately dubbed “BackRub” and soon garnered the involvement of Sergey Brin, who received support from a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Page and Brin’s initial encounter occurred during the summer of 1995 when Page was part of a group of prospective students touring the campus, with Brin volunteering to guide them. Both Page and Brin were actively engaged in the Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP), a venture aimed at developing the foundational technologies for a unified and universal digital library. Funding for SDLP was secured from various federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation.
Additionally, Brin and Page were part of a computer science research team at Stanford University that received financial support from the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) program, managed by significant intelligence and military contractors on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
Larry Page’s web crawler commenced its exploration of the web in March 1996, with Page’s own Stanford home page serving as the initial point of departure. To convert the amassed backlink data into a measure of a page’s importance, Brin and Page devised the groundbreaking PageRank algorithm. During their analysis of BackRub’s output, consisting of backlinks ranked by importance for a given URL, the duo recognized the potential for a search engine based on PageRank to deliver superior results compared to existing methods, as the prevailing search engines primarily ranked results based on the frequency of search term occurrences on a page.
Their conviction was based on the premise that web pages with the most backlinks from other highly relevant pages were the most pertinent search results. Page and Brin validated this hypothesis as part of their academic pursuits, laying the groundwork for the birth of their search engine. The initial version of Google was unveiled in August 1996, hosted on the Stanford website, and its operation consumed a substantial portion of Stanford’s network bandwidth.
Here are some raw statistics from August 29, 1996:
Total indexable HTML URLs: 75.2306 million
Total content downloaded: 207.022 gigabytes
The project was primarily implemented using Java and Python and ran on Sun Ultras and Intel Pentiums with Linux operating systems. The central database resided on a Sun Ultra II with 28GB of storage. Key contributions from Scott Hassan and Alan Steremberg were acknowledged by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Rajeev Motwani and Terry Winograd later collaborated with Page and Brin to publish the first paper on the project, which elucidated the PageRank algorithm and the initial prototype of the Google search engine in 1998. Héctor García-Molina and Jeff Ullman were also recognized as contributors to the project.
It’s worth noting that PageRank drew inspiration from a similar page-ranking and site-scoring algorithm utilized in RankDex, developed by Robin Li in 1996. In fact, Larry Page’s patent application for PageRank in 1998 included a reference to Li’s earlier patent. Robin Li went on to establish the Chinese search engine Baidu in 2000.
Late 1990s: Google’s Early Milestones
In the late 1990s, Google’s journey continued to evolve:
1. Domain Registration and Incorporation: Originally, Google operated on Stanford University’s domains, using google.stanford.edu and z.stanford.edu. On September 15, 1997, they registered the domain google.com. Then, on September 4, 1998, the company was formally incorporated as Google in the garage of their friend Susan Wojcicki in Menlo Park, California. Interestingly, Susan Wojcicki later became an executive at Google and eventually the CEO of YouTube.
2. Advertising Model: Initially, both Sergey Brin and Larry Page were averse to using advertising pop-ups in their search engine. In fact, they wrote a research paper on this topic in 1998 while still students. However, they underwent a change of heart and introduced simple text ads.
3. Index Expansion: By the close of 1998, Google’s index had grown to encompass about 60 million web pages. Remarkably, even though their homepage still bore the label “BETA,” an article in Salon.com lauded Google’s search results, deeming them superior to those of competitors like Hotbot or Excite.com. It was praised for its technological innovation, distinguishing itself from the portal sites of the time, including Yahoo!, Excite.com, Lycos, Netscape’s Netcenter, AOL.com, Go.com, and MSN.com. These portal sites, considered the future of the web during the dot-com bubble, received notable attention from stock market investors.
4. Attempted Sale to Excite: In early 1999, Brin and Page contemplated selling Google to Excite. They approached Excite’s CEO, George Bell, with an offer of $1 million. However, Bell rejected the proposal. After negotiations involving Vinod Khosla, one of Excite’s venture capitalists, the duo agreed to lower the asking price to $750,000, but Bell once again turned down the offer.
5. Relocation and the Birth of the Googleplex: In March 1999, Google moved its offices to 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, a locale known for housing several prominent Silicon Valley technology startups. Following rapid growth, Google subsequently leased a set of buildings in Mountain View, located at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, from Silicon Graphics (SGI) in 2003. This location has since become iconic as the Googleplex, a clever play on the word “googolplex,” which represents a number equal to 1 followed by a googol of zeros. In 2006, Google acquired the property from SGI for $319 million, cementing its presence at the Googleplex.
The 2000s: Google’s Ascension
During the 2000s, Google solidified its position as a dominant force in the internet landscape:
Loyal Following and Advertising Model: Google’s search engine gained a devoted user base due to its simple and user-friendly design. In 2000, Google ventured into the sale of advertisements linked to search keywords. These ads were text-based, contributing to a clean page layout and swift loading times. Keywords were sold through a combination of price bidding and click-through rates, with bidding starting at just $0.05 per click. This model, pioneering keyword advertising, was first introduced by Goto.com, a spin-off of Idealab founded by Bill Gross. Following a legal dispute, Goto.com, later known as Overture Services, was acquired by Yahoo! and renamed Yahoo! Search Marketing. The case was ultimately settled out of court, with Google agreeing to issue shares of common stock to Yahoo! in exchange for a perpetual license.
“Don’t Be Evil” Code of Conduct: Google adopted the motto “Don’t be evil” as its code of conduct. This philosophy was prominently featured in their 2004 IPO prospectus, emphasizing their commitment to making a positive impact on the world, even if it meant sacrificing short-term gains.
Acquisition of Pyra Labs and Blogger: In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, the owner of the Blogger website. This acquisition enhanced the company’s ability to utilize information gathered from blog posts to enhance the speed and relevance of content in Google News, a companion product to the search engine.
Yahoo! Ends Partnership: In February 2004, Yahoo! terminated its partnership with Google and launched its independent search engine. This decision had some impact on Google’s market share, but it also highlighted Google’s uniqueness. Notably, the term “to Google” found its way into various languages, signifying “to conduct a web search” and indicating Google’s transformation into a genericized trademark.
Post-IPO Growth: Following its initial public offering (IPO) in 2004, Google’s stock market capitalization experienced substantial growth, with the stock price more than quadrupling. As of August 19, 2004, the number of shares outstanding was 172.85 million, and the “free float” was 19.60 million, with 89% held by insiders. Google-operated under a dual-class stock structure, with Class B shares having ten votes compared to Class A shares having one. Larry Page emphasized in the IPO prospectus that this structure aimed to prioritize stability and independence while encouraging investors to have faith in the team, especially in him and Sergey Brin.
Staggering Valuation: By June 2005, Google was valued at nearly $52 billion, solidifying its status as one of the world’s largest media companies in terms of stock market value.
Google’s Developments in the Mid-2000s
The mid-2000s marked significant developments for Google:
Stock Offering with Mathematical Reference: On August 18, 2005, exactly one year after its initial IPO, Google announced its intention to sell 14,159,265 additional shares of stock, a numerical reference to π (π ≈ 3.14159265). This move aimed to double Google’s cash reserves to $7 billion. The funds raised would be allocated for potential acquisitions of complementary businesses, technologies, or other assets.
Competition with Tech Giants: As Google expanded, it faced growing competition from mainstream technology giants. Notably, Microsoft emerged as a formidable rival, actively promoting its Bing search engine in an attempt to challenge Google’s dominant position. The two companies began offering overlapping services, such as webmail (Gmail vs. Hotmail), search (online and local desktop searching), and other applications. Google even introduced its own Linux-based operating system, ChromeOS, as a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows. The rivalry extended to rumors of a Google web browser, fueled by Google’s ownership of the domain name “gbrowser.com,” which was subsequently substantiated with the release of Google Chrome.
Legal Disputes: Google’s competition with Microsoft led to legal disputes. One such case involved Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft vice president who left Microsoft to work for Google. Microsoft sued to prevent his move, citing a non-compete contract and concerns about sensitive information regarding Microsoft’s China strategy. The two companies ultimately reached a confidential out-of-court settlement in December 2005.
Click Fraud Challenges: Click fraud became an escalating issue for Google’s business model. In December 2004, Google’s CFO, George Reyes, expressed the need for rapid action to address this problem, recognizing that it could potentially threaten the company’s business model.
Diversification into New Markets: While Google’s primary market was web content, it explored other markets, including radio and print publications. In January 2006, Google acquired dMarc, a radio advertising company offering an automated system for radio advertising. Google also ventured into selling advertisements from its online advertisers in offline newspapers and magazines, as seen in select advertisements in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Innovative Product Strategy: Eric Schmidt, during a conference call in the third quarter of 2005, highlighted Google’s unique approach to product strategy. Google didn’t simply replicate what others were doing but sought to identify new problems and markets where technology could make a difference.
Inclusion in S&P 500: On March 31, 2006, Google was added to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P 500), replacing Burlington Resources, a major oil producer based in Houston that had been acquired by ConocoPhillips. Google’s stock price rose by 7% the day after the announcement.
Knol and Wikipedia Competition: In 2008, Google launched Knol, a platform similar to Wikipedia, where experts could share their knowledge. However, Knol didn’t achieve the same level of success and eventually ceased operations in 2012.
Google’s utilization of HTTP cookies for web tracking evolved over the years, with notable developments:
Pre-IPO Advertising Focus: Before its IPO in 2004, Google was already heavily reliant on advertising for its revenue.
Introduction of HTTP Cookies: Google did not employ HTTP cookie-based web tracking until the period of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In 2006, the company’s advertising revenue began to show signs of decline, partly because an increasing number of advertisers were refraining from purchasing display ads from Google.
Financial Crisis Impact: The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 had a profound impact on Google. Facing the financial downturn and a potential hiring freeze, Google was on the verge of financial instability if advertising revenue continued to decline. With a market capitalization exceeding $100 billion, Google’s hypothetical bankruptcy could have had significant ramifications for a stock market already reeling from the crisis, notably the United States bear market of 2007–2009.
Purchase of DoubleClick: In 2007, Google made a pivotal move by acquiring DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. This acquisition marked the commencement of Google’s use of cookie-based tracking for advertising and user data. Even with the purchase of DoubleClick, Google’s revenues only grew by 3% in the second quarter of 2009, which was a challenging period during the economic recession.
Privacy Changes: Initially, Google kept browsing data collected from advertising tracking separate from data gathered by its other services. However, in 2016, Google decided to eliminate this last layer of separation, leading to tracking that was more personally identifiable.
These changes reflect the evolution of Google’s data collection and advertising practices, driven by both its need to sustain revenue growth and the shift toward more comprehensive tracking methods.
Google’s Developments in the 2010s
The 2010s were marked by various significant developments for Google:
Google+ Launch and Social Networking Efforts: In 2011, Google introduced Google+, marking its fourth attempt at social networking after previous ventures like Google Buzz (2010, retired in 2011), Google Friend Connect (2008, retired in 2012), and Orkut (2004, retired in 2014). Google+ aimed to create a social network to compete with other platforms.
Global Expansion: By November 2014, Google had established a presence in over 70 offices spanning more than 41 countries, illustrating its global reach and influence.
Reorganization into Alphabet Inc.: In 2015, Google underwent a major corporate restructuring. It established Alphabet Inc. as a holding company, with Google as its primary subsidiary. This reorganization aimed to streamline and clarify the various interests and subsidiaries held under Alphabet, with Google remaining the primary entity for the company’s internet-focused activities.
Restructuring into Google LLC: On September 1, 2017, Google Inc. announced its transformation into a limited liability company (Google LLC). It became a wholly owned subsidiary of XXVI Holdings, Inc., another subsidiary formed by Alphabet Inc., which held equity in various Alphabet subsidiaries, including Google LLC.
Tensions and Employee Protests: Between 2018 and 2019, tensions between Google’s leadership and its employees intensified. Workers voiced their concerns and protested several company decisions, including handling internal sexual harassment issues, Project Dragonfly (a censored Chinese search engine), and Project Maven (a military drone artificial intelligence initiative). These issues were associated with potential areas of revenue growth for the company. The New York Times published an exposé in October 2018 regarding Google’s handling of sexual harassment allegations. Subsequently, more than 20,000 Google employees staged a global walkout to protest the company’s approach to these matters. CEO Sundar Pichai expressed support for the protests.
Google Stadia: On March 19, 2019, Google ventured into the video game market by introducing Google Stadia, a cloud gaming platform. Stadia aimed to provide a new gaming experience through cloud-based technology.
Antitrust Investigations and Lawsuit: In June 2019, the United States Department of Justice initiated an investigation into Google for potential antitrust violations. This inquiry ultimately led to the filing of an antitrust lawsuit in October 2020, alleging that Google had abused its monopoly position in the search and search advertising markets.
New Commerce Chief: In December 2019, Bill Ready, former Chief Operating Officer of PayPal, assumed the role of Google’s new commerce chief. His responsibilities did not include direct involvement with Google Pay.
These developments underscore Google’s continued growth and influence, along with the challenges and controversies it faced in the 2010s.
Google’s Developments in 2020s
The 2020s brought several notable developments for Google:
Cost-Cutting Measures in Response to COVID-19: In April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Google announced a series of cost-cutting measures. These included slowing down hiring for the remainder of the year, with exceptions for critical areas, as well as adjustments in investments and reductions in non-essential marketing and travel expenses.
Google Service Outages: Throughout 2020, there were multiple service outages impacting Google services. These included disruptions in August affecting Google Drive, in November affecting YouTube, and in December affecting the entire suite of Google applications. Google resolved these outages within hours.
Australian Media Payment Legislation: In January 2021, the Australian Government proposed legislation that would mandate Google and Facebook to pay media companies for the right to use their content. In response, Google threatened to restrict access to its search engine in Australia, expressing concern over the proposed payment obligations.
Google Stadia Investments: In March 2021, Google reportedly invested $20 million in Ubisoft ports for Google Stadia, demonstrating its commitment to expanding the gaming platform. Google expended substantial resources to attract major publishers like Ubisoft and Take-Two to bring their prominent games to Stadia.
‘Project Bernanke’ and Antitrust Lawsuit: In April 2021, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google had conducted a long-running program known as ‘Project Bernanke.’ This initiative used historical advertising bid data to gain a competitive edge over other advertising services. The revelation came to light through documents related to an antitrust lawsuit filed by ten U.S. states against Google in December 2020.
Canadian News Links Removal: In June 2023, Google announced its intention to remove Canadian news links from its services across the country. This decision was a response to legislation from the Canadian government (Bill C-11) that required online platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay for displaying news articles on their platforms.
These developments reflect Google’s ongoing adaptability and response to evolving economic, legal, and competitive challenges in the 2020s.
Google’s Financing and Initial Public Offering (IPO)
The financing and IPO of Google represented pivotal moments in the company’s history:
Initial Funding from Andy Bechtolsheim: Google’s first funding came in August 1998 when Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, provided a $100,000 contribution to a company that had not yet been formally established.
Equity Funding Round: On June 7, 1999, Google announced a round of equity funding totaling $25 million. Major investors included venture capital firms Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. While this funding was crucial for Google’s growth, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were initially reluctant to take the company public as they were not prepared to relinquish control.
Appointment of Eric Schmidt: After the $25 million financing round, Sequoia Capital recommended that Brin and Page hire a CEO. In August 2001, they agreed to bring Eric Schmidt on board as Google’s first CEO.
Microsoft Partnership Talks: In October 2003, during discussions about a potential initial public offering (IPO), Microsoft approached Google regarding a possible partnership or merger. However, no deal materialized.
Preparation for IPO: In January 2004, Google announced that it had enlisted the services of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to organize an IPO, which was projected to raise up to $4 billion.
Google’s IPO: Google’s initial public offering took place on August 19, 2004. A total of 19,605,052 shares were offered at a price of $85 per share. Of these, 14,142,135 shares were issued by Google, and 5,462,917 shares were offered by selling stockholders. The IPO raised $1.67 billion, and Google’s market capitalization exceeded $23 billion. The IPO also made many Google employees instant millionaires.
CEO and Founders’ Salaries: Following the IPO, CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page voluntarily reduced their base salaries to $1. Their primary compensation continued to come from owning Google stock.
Maintaining Company Culture: Concerns were raised that the IPO might change Google’s corporate culture, potentially due to shareholder pressure for reduced employee benefits and the sudden wealth of company executives. In response to these concerns, Brin and Page assured potential investors that the IPO would not alter the company’s culture.
Listing on NASDAQ: Google’s stock was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol GOOG. When Alphabet was established as Google’s parent company, it retained Google’s stock price history and ticker symbol.
The name “Google” has a fascinating origin and history:
Misspelling of “Googol”: The name “Google” evolved from a misspelling of “googol,” which denotes the number represented by 1 followed by one hundred zeros. Larry Page and Sergey Brin chose this name because it aligns with their goal of constructing expansive search engines. In their initial paper on PageRank, they explained their choice by stating, “We chose our systems name, Google, because it is a common spelling of googol, or 10^100, and fits well with our goal of building very large-scale search engines.”
Pre-existing Uses of the Name: The name “Google” has been utilized in various contexts prior to the company’s establishment. For instance, the comic strip character Barney Google was created in 1919. Renowned British children’s author Enid Blyton incorporated the phrase “Google Bun” in her works, such as “The Magic Faraway Tree” (1941) and “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” (1946). She also featured a clown character named “Google” in “Circus Days Again” (1942). Additionally, Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” included a character called the “Googleplex Star Thinker.”
Trademark Application: In March 1996, Groove Track Productions applied for a U.S. trademark for “Google” across various product categories, including clothing, stuffed toys, board games, and candy. However, the company abandoned its application in July 1997.
Incorporation into Language: “Google” has become a part of everyday language. It was officially added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, defining it as “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the internet.” This reflects Google’s mission to organize vast amounts of web information.
Cultural References: The verb “google” has appeared in popular culture, notably on the TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in 2002. It has gained significant recognition and was listed as one of the top words of the decade by the Global Language Monitor in November 2009.
Trademark Dispute: In 2012, David Elliott filed a complaint against Google, arguing that “Google” had become a generic term and lost its trademark significance due to its widespread use as a transitive verb. Elliott sought a declaratory judgment regarding his domain names and the cancellation of Google’s registered marks, asserting that “Google” had become a global generic word for “searching the internet.”
The name “Google” reflects both its mathematical origin and its significant impact on language and culture.
Google has entered into several partnerships with various organizations and companies to enhance its services and expand its reach. Here are some of the notable partnerships and collaborations in Google’s history:
NASA Partnership: In September 2005, Google announced a research partnership with NASA to build a 1,000,000-square-foot R&D center at NASA’s Ames Research Center. This collaboration involved research in areas such as large-scale data management, distributed computing, and more.
Sun Microsystems: In October 2006, Google partnered with Sun Microsystems to share and distribute technologies. As part of the partnership, Google hired employees to contribute to the open-source office program OpenOffice.org.
AOL Investment: Google and AOL unveiled an expanded partnership in December 2005. Google invested $1 billion for a 5% stake in AOL and collaborated on global advertising and video search. This partnership also included the integration of AOL’s premium video service within Google Video.
Fox Interactive Media: In August 2006, Google signed a $900 million deal with News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media unit to provide search and advertising on websites such as MySpace, IGN, AmericanIdol.com, and more.
Sky and Google Alliance: In December 2006, British Sky Broadcasting announced an alliance with Google. This partnership allowed Gmail to link with Sky and host a mail service for Sky, using the email domain “@sky.com.”
NORAD Tracks Santa: In 2007, Google became a key partner and sponsor of the NORAD Tracks Santa program, displacing America Online. Google Earth was used to provide a 3-D experience for visitors tracking Santa Claus’ progress.
GeoEye Satellite: In 2008, Google partnered with GeoEye to launch a satellite that provided high-resolution imagery for Google Earth.
Life Magazine Archive: Google announced in 2008 that it was hosting an archive of Life Magazine’s photographs.
Partnership with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications: In January 2009, Google partnered with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, allowing the Pope to have his own channel on YouTube.
Automotive Integration: In January 2013, Google announced a partnership with Kia Motors and Hyundai to integrate Google Maps and Place into new car models.
Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI): Google is part of the A4AI, a coalition launched in October 2013, with the goal of making Internet access more affordable in the developing world. The alliance aims to lower Internet access prices to below the UN Broadband Commission’s target of 5% of monthly income.
HTC Cooperation Agreement: In September 2017, HTC entered into a “cooperation agreement” with Google, selling non-exclusive rights to certain intellectual property and smartphone talent to Google for $1.1 billion.
These partnerships have allowed Google to expand its services and innovations into various industries and domains, from space research to automotive integration and beyond.
Google Video and YouTube
Google’s rapid expansion, driven primarily by keyword-based web advertising, positioned it for a strong competitive presence in emerging web services. Among these ventures, the delivery of video content took center stage. In January 2005, Google unveiled Google Video, an innovative platform that allowed users to search through close-captioned text from television broadcasts. A few months later, Google took a bold step by accepting user-submitted videos, giving submitters the autonomy to set prices for video downloads. By January 2006, the Google Video Store made its debut, showcasing premium content from established media giants like CBS Corporation (featuring television shows) and Sony Corporation (offering movies). Fast forward to June 2006, and Google made another noteworthy move by providing premium content for free, supported by advertisements.
Despite its marketing prowess, Google couldn’t surpass the rising star of online videos, YouTube. Since its inception in 2005, YouTube swiftly emerged as the preferred platform for users to upload short video content, with some videos amassing millions of viewers. Struggling to replicate this level of user-generated content and viewership, Google made a significant move by acquiring YouTube in 2006, in a stock deal worth $1.65 billion. Interestingly, Google opted to maintain YouTube as a distinct entity rather than merging the two websites.
In 2012, Google made the strategic decision to discontinue Google Video, migrating its video content to YouTube. Notably, despite the platform’s estimated revenues exceeding $1 billion, Google referred to YouTube as an “investment” and refrained from disclosing whether the division was profitable or not.
In 2004, Google introduced a free web-based email service, Gmail, initially offered to select “beta” testers, indicating it was still in the developmental stage. This innovative email platform was eventually made available to the general public in 2007, even while officially labeled as a beta product. One of Gmail’s primary attractions was its provision of an email address independent of any specific Internet service provider (ISP), allowing users to maintain a permanent address. Furthermore, Gmail offered an unprecedented one gigabyte of free email storage space, although it displayed advertisements based on keywords found in users’ messages through the Google search engine. Over time, Google expanded the free storage space to seven gigabytes and permitted users to rent additional storage.
In 2007, Google acquired Postini, an email services company, for $625 million to enhance Gmail’s security, particularly in its endeavor to cater to businesses. In 2009, Google officially removed the beta status from Gmail, further enhancing its appeal to business users.
In January 2010, Google disclosed the detection of a series of sophisticated hacking attacks, originating in China, targeting Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists and foreign journalists based in China. Some accounts had been altered to forward emails to unfamiliar addresses. In response, Google transitioned Gmail’s protocol from the standard HTTP to encrypted HTTPS, prioritizing security at the expense of speed. These attacks also prompted Google to reconsider its position, which had allowed the Chinese government to censor its Google.cn site and provide filtered search results to Chinese users. This led to a conflict with the Chinese government and the possibility of Google exiting the Chinese market. To circumvent direct confrontation, Google automatically redirected Chinese users from Google.cn to its unfiltered Hong Kong site, Google.com.hk, which continued until the renewal of Google’s government-issued license to operate in China in June.
At that juncture, Google altered Google.cn to offer users the option of either using the censored Chinese site for services like music search or manually linking to Google.com.hk for web search. This move helped reconcile relations with the Chinese government, which subsequently renewed Google’s license in July 2010.
Google’s foray into the world of digitized books dates back to a time before the company’s official launch when its founders were involved in digital book projects at Stanford University. Their vision always included the idea of enabling Internet users to search the content within books. This vision materialized in 2004 with the announcement of Google Print, a groundbreaking project involving collaborations with major libraries worldwide. The project aimed to provide free access to the holdings of these libraries on the Internet.
Google initiated the process by scanning public-domain books from these library collections, employing advanced scanning equipment. The resulting digital files were transformed into portable document files (PDFs) that were fully searchable, downloadable, and printable. Books still under copyright were only accessible in fragmented “snippet” form. In 2005, the project was rebranded as Google Books, and its initial years saw the scanning of approximately one million books per year. By 2012, Google had scanned more than 15 million books.
However, this ambitious endeavor faced legal challenges from groups of authors and publishers who sought to prevent the company from making copyrighted book passages available online. In 2008, Google reached a legal settlement with these parties, agreeing to pay them $125 million for past infringements. Notably, users could continue to read up to 20 percent of each work scanned by Google for free. In return for permitting portions of their works to be read online, authors and publishers were entitled to 63 percent of the advertising revenue generated from page views of their content on Google’s website.
In 2004, Google made a significant acquisition by purchasing Keyhole Inc., a company that had received partial funding from the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel. Keyhole had developed an online mapping service, which Google rebranded as Google Earth in 2005. Google Earth offered users the ability to access detailed satellite images of virtually any location on Earth and to create “mashups,” combining these images with various other databases. These mashups integrated data such as street names, weather patterns, crime statistics, coffee shop locations, real estate prices, and population densities into Google Earth maps. While many of these mashups were created for convenience or entertainment, others proved to be critical tools for saving lives. For example, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Google Earth provided interactive satellite overlays of the affected region, greatly assisting rescue efforts and disaster recovery.
However, Google’s stance on privacy came into question when it introduced a related mapping service called Street View. This service displayed street-level photographs, initially from the United States and later from other countries, which were searchable by street address. Some of these photographs revealed views through house windows or people sunbathing. Google defended Street View by asserting that the images showed only what someone could see while walking down the street. In response to privacy concerns in Germany, in 2010, Google allowed people to opt out of having their homes and businesses included in Street View, with 244,000 individuals (3 percent of the country) choosing to do so. Although a German court ruled in 2011 that Street View was legal, Google decided not to add new photographs to the service.
Google Apps and Chrome
In 2006, Google made a significant move in what many perceived as the beginning of a competition with Microsoft by introducing Google Apps. These were application software hosted by Google and operated through users’ web browsers. The initial set of free programs included Google Calendar (a scheduling tool), Google Talk (an instant messaging platform), and Google Page Creator (a web page creation tool). To access these free programs, users viewed advertisements and stored their data on Google’s infrastructure. This deployment model, where both data and software are hosted on the internet, is commonly referred to as cloud computing.
Between 2006 and 2007, Google either acquired or developed various traditional business software, such as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications, which were eventually collectively branded as Google Docs. Like Google Apps, Google Docs operated through a web browser connecting to data stored on Google’s servers. In 2007, Google introduced a premium offering called the Premier Edition of Google Apps, which featured 25 gigabytes of email storage, security features from the recently acquired Postini software, and an ad-free experience. As the components of Google Docs became available, they were incorporated into both the free, ad-supported Google Apps and the Premier Edition. Google Docs, in particular, was positioned as a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Office Suite, which included Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
In 2012, Chrome surpassed Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) to become the most popular web browser, a position it has maintained over IE, Microsoft’s Edge (IE’s replacement), Mozilla Corporation’s Firefox, and Apple Inc.’s Safari as of 2020.
Android operating system
Google’s venture into the mobile operating system market began with its acquisition of Android Inc. in 2005, even though the company had not released any products at that time. In 2007, Google founded the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium comprising numerous technology and mobile phone companies, including Intel, Motorola, NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, LG, Samsung, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile. This alliance was formed to develop and promote Android, a free open-source operating system rooted in Linux. The debut of the first phone featuring this new operating system was the T-Mobile G1, which hit the market in October 2008. Android-based phones, however, truly thrived with the advent of more capable third-generation (3G) wireless networks, enabling users to fully utilize features such as one-touch Google searches, Google Docs, Google Earth, and Google Street View.
In 2010, Google directly entered the competition with Apple’s iPhone by introducing the Nexus One smartphone, affectionately known as the “Google Phone.” The Nexus One featured the latest version of Android, a large, vibrant display, an attractive design, and a voice-to-text messaging system built on advanced voice recognition software. One of its perceived drawbacks, however, was the lack of native support for multi-touch, a feature pioneered by Apple that offered users greater flexibility in interacting with touchscreens. Nonetheless, by the end of 2011, Android had asserted itself as the leader in the mobile phone industry, commanding a 52 percent global market share, more than triple that of iOS.
In 2010, Google’s hardware partners also began releasing tablet computers powered by the Android operating system. While the initial product faced criticism for performance issues, Android-based tablets gained ground on the immensely popular Apple iPad by the end of 2011. Out of the estimated 68 million tablets shipped that year, 39 percent ran on Android, compared to nearly 60 percent being iPads.
The competitive landscape for Android led to legal battles in the courts. For example, in 2010, Oracle Corporation filed a $6.1 billion lawsuit against Google, alleging that Android had violated multiple patents related to Oracle’s Java programming language. After two years of legal proceedings, Google ultimately emerged victorious in the lawsuit. Instead of directly targeting Google, Apple sued manufacturers of Android smartphones, including HTC, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung, over alleged patent infringements. Steve Jobs, the late Apple CEO, was famously quoted as saying, “I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.” The patent disputes over mobile operating systems appeared to have no easy resolution, with lawsuits and countersuits emerging with the release of each new version.
Social networks and Google+
Google was relatively late in recognizing the popularity and advertising potential of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Its initial venture into the social networking arena was Google Buzz, which was launched in 2010 but shuttered less than two years later. Google Buzz faced a range of issues, including being limited to users with Gmail accounts and privacy concerns due to a default setting that exposed users’ profiles to anyone. Even as Google Buzz was winding down, Google introduced Google+ in June 2011. Initially, it was launched to a restricted audience and later made available to all users. Within a year, Google+ attracted over 170 million users. In contrast, Facebook took five years to reach 150 million users.
However, Google+ faced fierce competition from Facebook, which had around 900 million users by mid-2012. Facebook users spent significantly more time on the platform, averaging six to seven hours per month, while Google+ users spent just a little over three minutes per month. Additionally, because Facebook didn’t allow Google’s web indexing software to access its servers, Google couldn’t incorporate Facebook’s content into its search results, missing out on valuable data from one of the most highly trafficked networks on the internet.
Despite these challenges, Google was fully invested in Google+. It introduced a gaming section for the service, recognizing the importance of games in retaining users on social networks. It also developed innovative features not available on Facebook, such as Hangouts, which allowed users to create instant video conferences for up to 10 people. Google+ also offered pages for businesses to promote their products and brands. Nevertheless, Google+ never managed to surpass Facebook, and the service was discontinued in 2019.
Google,History of Google
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