15 February 2014

A Look Back : Google Past 15

Every few years, the internet enters a new paradigm.

Previously it was social. The era started with Friendster which gave in to Facebook. It was all about having as much friends and connections as possible.

Now the internet is all about sharing. Web pages are “liked”. Videos go viral. Comments are retweeted. With all the connections made during the social period, the next logical step is to share things with each other.

But before all of this, there was search. And the king of search is Google. Google has been synonymous with search as Coke is with beverage.

But what makes Google different?

How did it survive for so long and still remain on top?

The Beginning of Google

In September 1998, Britney Spears debuted in a catholic schoolgirl uniform singing and dancing to “(Hit me) ...Baby One More Time”. And just like the song, another search engine provider entered the scene that same month. It was Google.

Google offered its internet search service amidst other competitors such as Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, Lycos, Infoseek, and the top search engine at the time, Yahoo!.

Page Rank

All of these companies provided the same service; delivering search results to users. But Google was different from the rest. While all search engines at the time delivered results based on the keywords found on a webpage, Google used a unique algorithm called Page Rank. Page Rank is named after one of the Google founders, Larry Page.

Instead of basing results on the number of keywords on a page, Page Rank delivers results on the number of pages link to the specific page. The more pages reference that page, the higher it is in ranking.

Page Rank addressed the issue of webmasters filling up a page with the keyword to increase its placement in search results.

A Clean Slate

Another stand out feature of Google then was its interface. Going to google.com brings the user to a clean white page with a search bar in the middle. Most, if not all the other search engine pages were cluttered with advertisements and recommended webpages.

Up until now, Google has not deviated much from this design. The clean white page does not detract the user from his primary goal in visiting the page; to search.

Verbifying Google

By the end of 1998, Google has over 60 million web pages in its index and was beginning to be identified as the top web search engine around.

As of 2012, Google has indexed over 30 trillion web pages, with an average 100 billion queries per month.

Google has become so popular and synonymous with internet search that in 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary added the word ‘google’ and is defined as to obtain information on something or somebody on the internet.

Google has discouraged the use of its name as a verb to avoid genericizing the word and lose its trademark. Google has publicly requested that the use of its name should only refer to the company (Google, Inc.) and its services

Google Earnings

It is estimated that Google earns about $1873 per second. According to its annual report filed with the SEC, Google’s gross profit for 2012 was US$ 50.18 Billion. Over 90% of its revenue is from advertising products.

Google started to sell advertising in 2000. During this time, advertisements were placed on pages randomly. Google did it differently by selling advertisements based on keywords. A particular ad will only show if the user used a relevant keyword.

Keywords were sold based on a combination of price bid and click-throughs, with bidding starting at $.05 per click.

15 Years Later

Google from the beginning has done things differently. Google changed the way search was done. It introduced a clean interface where everyone’s webpage was portal based. Their adopted profit model was also far from the norm.

The company’s ability to be simple, different and at the same time relevant has been Google’s strong suit. Where others have folded, faced bankruptcy, and sold at bargain prices, Google has stayed on top. From a starting IPO of $85 in 2004, the stock price crossed the $1000 mark on the 17th of October 2013.

Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Google as the 2nd most valuable brand in the world.

In 2005, then CEO Eric Schmidt summed up Google’s success strategy when he said, “"We don't do the same thing as everyone else does. And so if you try to predict our product strategy by simply saying well so and so has this and Google will do the same thing, it's almost always the wrong answer. We look at markets as they exist and we assume they are pretty well served by their existing players. We try to see new problems and new markets using the technology that others use and we build."