The first question most people have is, “What the heck is a “Google?” It is a play on the word “googol,” which is the mathematical figure 1 followed by 100 zeros. Depending on the level of your love for math, this is either the greatest or lamest name for a search engine. Regardless, the clever kids at Google have turned it into a cultural standard.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google in January of 1996, then known as BackRub. The boys were in the early twenties and classic computer geeks. Sergey was born in Moscow, alum of the University of Michigan and visiting Stanford. Larry was assigned to be his guide. During this visit, they obviously hit it off or today nobody would give a hoot about linking strategies.
Although two men and the name “BackRub” may raise some questions, the name actually referred to a method for producing search engine rankings. Specifically, the BackRub search engine was designed to analyze the “back links” to a site. Although BackRub developed a following with those in the know, nothing much happened for a few years.
As with most new businesses, the boys needed some serious cash. The brass at Yahoo was interested, but initially passed. Sun Microsystems, of all companies, provided an answer. Andy Bechtolsheim was one of the founders of Sun and, thus, had the necessary deep pockets. $100,000 later, the new search engine company was on the way to stardom.
A New Name
As legend has it, BackRub became Google for a rather humorous reason. Apparently, Bechtolsheim accidentally made the $100k check out to “Google, Inc.” You can make your own guess as to which one of the boys said, “Hey, I have an idea for a new name.” In September of 1998, Google opened a small office in Menlo Park, California. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Google is based in Mountain View, California. Google prefers email communication, but you can get a live voice by calling (650) 623-4000. If you really want to talk to them, refuse a charge from the company on the credit card you use for Adwords. They will contact you pretty quickly!
The company went public in 2004 [Symbol: GOOG] and has a stock value of around $390 per share. Larry and Sergey are sickeningly wealthy. One can assume that Andy Bechtolsheim is also doing all right.
In the last year or so, Google has certainly received its fair share of criticism. PageRank is almost useless in relation to ranking in search results. At the time of this writing, PageRank hasn’t worked for three days, which means a change, shuffle, dance or whatever you want to call it is coming.
On the competition front, things are a bit murky. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a patent lawsuit being filed against the company. MSN and Yahoo have started to raise the level of competition and more will be coming. Google’s reliance on AOL as a traffic source is also a bit troubling given the continual loss of market share by the company that nearly brought Time Warner down. Gmail is dogged by patent issues, not to mention questions about violations of the privacy of users. All and all, things are not as rosy compared to a few years ago, but they can hardly be called bad.
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to predicting if Google will become just another search engine. Personally, I think it will, but not because of any of the above. Instead, the evolution of the Internet suggests there will be a next “big thing.” Who knows, maybe Google will get a Grub [Grub.org] in its Nutch [Nutch.org].