We all do it. It’s our first port of call whenever a query comes up during a conversation: at work, at school, in the pub…
Google has assimilated its way into modern culture in a way unprecedented for a tech company… indeed for any sort of company. It has found itself the subject of movies, books, songs and innumerable column inches. It has also grown into a colossal multi-faceted company with its fingers in so many pies that it presumably has to Google itself frequently, just to keep up-to-date with its comprehensive list of interests.
But how did it all start for arguably the world’s biggest tech brand?
Now a universally-known term, the name ‘Google’ was actually derived from the misspelling of the work googol (which is the number 1, followed by one hundred zeroes). Interestingly though, the word google had been in print long before Page and Brin came along, contained in works including ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ and ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’.
The search engine’s humble beginnings saw it embedded into Stanford’s website using the domain google.stanford.edu. It wasn’t until the following year that the creators took the next step by registering the domain google.com on September 15th 1997, and the company ‘Google’ was subsequently created a year after that in September 1998. By this point, the project was attracting significant attention within the industry and the company received its first official funding with a $100,000 contribution from Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems.
By the end of ’98 Google had an index of 60 million pages. Crucially, from the very start, even when still essentially at BETA stage, Google was seen as technologically advanced and more accurate than many of the established search engines of the time (Yahoo, AOL). This is a very pertinent lesson for tech start-ups – get your primary selling point honed from the very start to ensure the consumer’s first impression of your company is one of it being more advanced than everything that has preceded it.
Google’s popularity continued to rise and draw a very loyal user base, who liked the simple design. As the world entered the new millennium, Google was basking in extraordinary growth and decided that this was the time to begin to sell advertisements associated with search keywords. It would become a trait of the company to sense the optimum moment to develop the business, an attribute that has perhaps contributed most to its phenomenal success.
Google has not always had everything its own way. In 2003, fellow tech giants Microsoft approached the company to float the idea of a partnership or merger. The deal never happened. Subsequently the relationship between the two companies has become more fraught. Microsoft soon launched Bing and many of the two companies’ services are now in direct competition (Hotmail v gmail, Internet Explorer v Chrome).
Despite its size and stature, Google, like any mature business, has not been immune from the odd misstep. Google+ was launched in 2011 and is the company’s fourth foray into the social networking sphere after disappointing responses to precursors Google Buzz (2010), Google Friend Connect (2008) and Orkut (2004). It is a testament to the company’s philosophy and innovative ethos that it strives to overcome such hurdles by admitting that something hasn’t worked, rolling up its sleeves and trying again. Another great lesson for those wishing to emulate Google’s success.
Today Google sits comfortably atop the world’s most high profile brands. A multibillion dollar company, employer of over 55,000 people and a global reach of a billion users. It has also completed acquisitions of some huge tech platforms, including Android and You Tube. However, Google’s reach has stretched far beyond the corporate world. Its cultural legacy, still being formed, includes the word ‘google’ being added as a verb to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. Its definition: to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet.
When a company’s name enters the lexicon, it’s a safe bet to suggest it has made its mark. Who knows where Google goes next? Where else can their influence stretch? What worlds are there possibly left to conquer…?
Hold on, I’ll google it.