In 1995, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two PhD students from Stanford University, joined forces to work on a dissertation project focused on the mathematical properties of the internet. Their aim was to demonstrate that the number of quality backlinks pointing to a website was a more relevant factor than content keyword density when it came to specific search topics or keywords. This concept differed from the approach taken by earlier search engines. They affectionately called their project ‘BackRub’ and began testing their web crawler in March 1996 by crawling Page’s Stanford web page.
Using their innovative ranking algorithm, PageRank, they ranked websites based on the number of times they were linked to high-authority or popular sites. Encouraged by the positive response to BackRub, the dynamic duo launched the first version of Google in August 1996 from their dorm rooms, using borrowed computers and their personal credit cards to purchase terabytes of memory space. The name ‘Google’ was inspired by the word ‘googol,’ meaning a 1 followed by a hundred zeros, reflecting the vast volumes of information they needed to sort through to generate accurate search results. They had come across this term in the book Mathematics and the Imagination by James Newman and Edward Kasner, which they had read and admired.
During the 90s
In 1998, Google indexed over 60 million web pages, although its name still carried the ‘beta’ tag indicating that it was in the testing phase. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also took a keen interest in Google and invested in the company in subsequent years. This helped fuel their hiring spree, as they brought on engineers, administrative staff, marketing professionals, and other employees. They moved their operations to a more spacious setting in Palo Alto in 1999 to accommodate their growing team.
In September 1999, Google removed the ‘beta’ tag from its title, signaling a significant growth phase. With a simple but powerful mission statement to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful, Google was poised to change the way the world used the internet.
In 2001, Google patented its revolutionary PageRank software under creator Page’s name. In 2003, they moved to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Their 2004 public stock offering caused concerns about the company’s culture, so they adopted the “Do no Evil” motto and appointed a Chief Culture Officer. The 2000s also saw the launch of landmark products like Google News and Google Maps. They introduced AdWords in 2000, prompting marketers to focus on SEO and PPC. They also launched a personalized search, universal search, and Google Suggest, along with frequent algorithm updates to prevent shortcuts.
Throughout the 2010s, Google launched new products and made significant changes to its search algorithm. Google Instant was introduced in 2010, while Google+ and other ventures like Orkut, Google Friend Connect, and Google Buzz were rolled out and later withdrawn. Schema.org was launched in 2011 to aid communication with web crawlers. Featured snippets, now with source links, were introduced in 2015. Google and its subsidiaries were regrouped under Alphabet Inc. in the same year.
Google’s search algorithm also underwent significant changes, including Panda (2011), Penguin (2012), and Hummingbird (2013) updates, which targeted low-quality sites, penalized bought links, and aimed for conversational search. The 2017 Big Daddy update emphasized backlinks, canonicalization, and redirects, while the Mobile Speed update of 2018 made mobile page speed a ranking factor. Google also launched AMP and PWA in 2016 and 2017, respectively, to improve mobile webpage performance and offer mobile apps through web browsers.
With projects like Project Loon- Internet in a balloon, Tango for 3-D Mapping, Ara for Modular phones, and Self-driving cars, Google has its future figured out. The combination of advanced technology, user-friendly design, innovation, and brand recognition have helped Google in maintaining its position as a trusted and reliable provider of digital products and services.
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