Google is 13

Google Turns 13 And Becomes A Teenager

Google is 13Google Turned 13 this month, which makes the search giant officially a teenager (and they’re celebrating with some doodles) – but I thought now would be a good time to look back and see how far they have come in these few short years.

Google was first incorporated as company on the 4th September 1998 when founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were at Stanford University for their PhDs, and has become a household name with products and services ranging from their original search product based on the PageRank of each webpage, into a sprawling digital public company with yearly revenues of nearly $30 billion.

Whilst they have better competition in the search arena than ever before from the likes of Blekko, DuckDuckGo, and Bing they still manage to offer the closest results to what people are searching for online. Their dominance in search has meant that Google is the starting point for many people online, and they seem to be continually improving on their mission to “organise the world’s information”.

But it is outside of search that the company has offers some of its most interesting products – some it has developed in-house and others acquired from outside. They have dominance in display and text-link advertising online due to their AdSense product, a technology they sured up with the acquisition of market-leading Doubleclick in 2007. They compete with WordPress in offering one of the largest blogging services online through original market-leader Blogger. They offer web-based newsgroup access and search thanks to the acquisition of Deja – their first purchase as a company back in February 2001. They provide (and keep) detailed analytics on much of the web through Google Analytics after the purchase of Urchin in 2005.

But there are other more consumer-facing products that have become central to modern life. Google Maps is the defacto mapping application that people turn to for directions and more both on their PCs and on mobile devices (both iOS and Android rely on Google Maps). GMail leads the pack in email by a notable margin, having massively shaken up the space when it launched in 2004. Youtube remains the web’s most popular video destination by a large margin, and continues to innovate and make partnerships with traditional broadcasters to add premium content alongside the user-created material.

Their move into consumer software has made a huge impact on the market. They offer a web-based office package that can rival Microsoft Office in many ways and is free, but it is through the web browser Chrome and its Android mobile operating system that Google has really started to shape how we interact with our digital devices.

Chrome has allowed Google to pick up the baton from Mozilla’s Firefox and create a lean and fast web browser – and gives Google control of your entry point to the internet. They already dominate search, but people are increasingly using social tools such as Facebook and Twitter to find content on the web, and whilst Google is attempting to compete in this space with Google+, becoming the window through which people use all social tools has major benefits for the search giant. Firstly the URL bar has become a Google search box, but also Google can build in links to Google bookmarks, Google Reader, Picasa, and other Google tools for which people may have previously looked elsewhere. By making Google tools the closest to hand and easiest to use they get an edge over their competition – and continue to dominate people’s digital consumption.

Android works in a similar way to Chrome in allowing Google control of people’s digital devices – just this time in a mobile form. By owning the operating system, Google can control a mobile user’s window to not only the internet in general but also the walled garden of apps – and through all this they can obtain more and more information on each user against which they can sell advertising.

Like Facebook, Google is funded through advertising and the better targeted they can make those ads – the more money they can make from selling them. It is in Google’s interest, therefore, to be able to learn more information about each user through each of their various products, and the more time people spend on Google’s sites and services – the more page impressions they can sell ads on. This, however, obviously raises the question of user privacy…

Google (along with Facebook) have more information on each user in their arsenal to sell advertising to than ever before – and it is how they use that information that is important. Up to this point Google has managed to stay pretty close to its “do no evil” mantra, but it is still a profit driven public company – and the question as it moves into its teenage years is how it utilizes this knowledge. Knowledge is power, but as the company grows up will it use this power to improve its own services, or will it burn out through too much experimentation with new and untested products, or will it start having teenage tantrums as people start to treat it like any other multinational corporation as it moves away from its innocent beginnings?

Only time will tell.

Share This