Google's amazing journey

The $19 billion search giant Google is just ten years old , but it has outclassed its competitors - namely Microsoft and Yahoo! - in the online world.

The company today has a host of enviable offerings - Google search, Gmail, Page Rank, Adsense, Google Mobile, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Docs, Orkut, Blogger, YouTube, Android (a platform for mobiles), Cloud Computing initiatives, and now Chrome.

It even has a patent for a "floating data centre". Moreover, it is learning how to monetise these; the figures do the talking. Google has a market value of over $130 billion and cash reserves of around $13 billion.




It employs 20,000 people worldwide, including in India. Its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin - both 35 now - are worth nearly $19 billion apiece.

Google's start, though, was not smooth. Mr Page and Mr Brin did not hit it off immediately.

In fact it is said that they often had arguments while they were students at Stanford University, which they set aside to grow the company.

Mr Page was excited by the web's mathematical characteristics, and set about pondering its link structure.

The project came to be called BackRub. He then began building out his crawler.

It was here that Mr Brin, a Russian-born son of a NASA scientist and a University of Maryland mathematics professor, pooled in with his talent.

Together, they created an algorithm dubbed PageRank (after Page).

Fiddling with the results, they realised they had also stumbled on a querying tool which gave results that were more relevant than existing search engines like AltaVista and Excite.

This inspired the founders to name their new engine Google, after googol, the term for the numerical 1 followed by 100 zeroes.

They released the first version of Google on the Stanford website in August 1996, a year after they met.

The project became a legend within the computer science department and campus network administration offices of the university.

They released the first version of Google on the Stanford website in August 1996, a year after they met.

The project became a legend within the computer science department and campus network administration offices of the university.

However, as Google gets ready to step into adolescence, the going will get tougher.

It may have started with its first official office in a Californian garage, but today it has a 1.5 million-square-foot headquarters called the 'Googleplex' - as well as two dozen other US offices, and hubs in over 30 countries.




Its search engine (which Yahoo! itself had unwittingly popularised for a brief period), believed to have indexed at least 40 billion web pages, now runs on hundreds of thousands of computers kept in massive data centres around the world.

Not surprisingly, privacy watchdogs have sharpened their attacks on its retention of potentially sensitive information about the 650 million people who use its search engine and other Internet services, like YouTube, Maps and Gmail.

To protect its interests, Google, on its part, has hired lobbyists and ramped up its public relations staff.

While Yahoo! may be subdued, software giant Microsoft is getting aggressive. It is already investing heavily in the online world.


Besides, as Google plans to invest significant resources in providing software for enterprise search, office productivity, mapping, collaboration and communication, it has to compete against seasoned and formidable IT providers like IBM and Cisco too.

Around 98 per cent of Google's revenue comes from consumer search advertising, dwarfing the company's enterprise initiatives. IT and business managers will have that in mind as a risk factor.

Whatever the outcome, the words of Abraham Lincoln ring true in Google's case: "... in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

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