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Google: Master of All It Sees

The User's Perspective

Google knows more about you than you do. Google began as a search engine, but quickly discovered that selling contextually placed ads was its real business. In order to place those ads, the more it knows about users who use Google to search the web, the more accurately ads can be placed, and the more profitable selling them can be. After all, advertisers pay for results. Google set out to provide the results, and in so doing has developed more information about the average American than J. Edgar Hoover could have imagined in his wildest wet dream. As the depth and breadth of Google's invasion of Internet user's privacy as increased, Google has adjusted its privacy policies. Recent changes have drawn increasing criticism, as Google has started to consolidate information it collects across its many Internet properties

Google has increased pallette of services it provides in an effort to compensate for the inherent non-stikieness of its search engine, which is always a jumping-off point for somewhere else. The rise of Facebook has brought this perceived problem into sharp focus for Google. By contrast, countless millions of users go to Facebook and stay there, much to the consternation of Google.

Facebook has capitalized on its destination status to compete with Google in the collection of personal information. Facebook used its status and "Like" function to permeate millions of otherwise unaffiliated websites and collect user information on visitors to sites using the "Like" button and other Facebook features. Previously, only Google had such penetration by virtue of ubiquitos AdSense ads placed on the majority of websites across the Internet, or through the use of its "Webmaster Tools" used to track user activity: the resulting information is shared with Google and the website owner. Google's answer to the Facebook "Like" button is Google +1. Although Google's entry into the third party data collection sweepstakes is likely to gain some traction, it is unlikely to kill off or replace the "Like" button.

Google has direct competition for Facebook: Orkut. Orkut is more successful than Facebook in some corners of the world, such as South America, but not the mosst lucrative United States. To date, Google has not effectively played the Orkut card.

Google may be playing a waiting game with Facebook. Facebook's greatest weakness is time. In time, a challenger is likely to come out of nowhere and take over Facebook's primacy just as Facebook took over MySpace's primacy. Social networking is subject to trends, and signs of Facebook Fatigue are everywhere. By comparison, there are no signs of Google fatigue in the search engine arena. Facebook's IPO is a sign that the founders and start-up participants in Facebook have felt it was time to cash out. Financial experts excel at such timing, and most likely Facebook stockholders will be left holding the bag in the not too distant future. In that respect, Apple is a more serious challenger for Google than Facebook.

Google Inc.

[1998] Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG and LSE: GGEA) is an American public corporation, earning revenue from advertising related to its Internet search, web-based e-mail, online mapping, office productivity, social networking, and video sharing as well as selling advertising-free versions of the same technologies. Google's headquarters, the Googleplex, is located in Mountain View, California. As of March 31, 2008 the company has 19,156 full-time employees. As of October 31, 2007, it is the largest American company (by market capitalization) that is not part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Google was co-founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University and the company was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 7, 1998. Google's initial public offering took place on August 19, 2004, raising US$1.67 billion, making it worth US$23 billion. Google has continued its growth through a series of new product developments, acquisitions, and partnerships. Environmentalism, philanthropy, and positive employee relations have been important tenets during Google's growth, the latter resulting in being identified multiple times as Fortune Magazine's #1 Best Place to Work. The company's unofficial slogan is "Don't be evil", although criticism of Google include concerns regarding the privacy of personal information, copyright, censorship, and discontinuation of services.

Google began in January 1996, as a research project by Larry Page, who was soon joined by Sergey Brin, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California. They hypothesized that a search engine that analyzed the relationships between websites would produce better ranking of results than existing techniques, which ranked results according to the number of times the search term appeared on a page. Their search engine was originally nicknamed "BackRub" because the system checked backlinks to estimate a site's importance. A small search engine called Rankdex was already exploring a similar strategy.

Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant web pages must be the most relevant pages associated with the search, Page and Brin tested their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. Originally, the search engine used the Stanford University website with the domain google.stanford.edu. The domain google.com was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company was incorporated as Google Inc. on September 7, 1998 at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California. The total initial investment raised for the new company amounted to almost US$1.1 million, including a US$100,000 check by Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems.

In March 1999, the company moved into offices in Palo Alto, home to several other noted Silicon Valley technology startups. After quickly outgrowing two other sites, the company leased a complex of buildings in Mountain View at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway from Silicon Graphics (SGI) in 2003. The company has remained at this location ever since, and the complex has since come to be known as the Googleplex (a play on the word googolplex). In 2006, Google bought the property from SGI for US$319 million.

The Google search engine attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users, who liked its simple design and usability. In 2000, Google began selling advertisements associated with search keywords. The ads were text-based to maintain an uncluttered page design and to maximize page loading speed. Keywords were sold based on a combination of price bid and clickthroughs, with bidding starting at US$.05 per click. This model of selling keyword advertising was pioneered by Goto.com (later renamed Overture Services, before being acquired by Yahoo! and rebranded as Yahoo! Search Marketing). While many of its dot-com rivals failed in the new Internet marketplace, Google quietly rose in stature while generating revenue.

The name "Google" originated from a common misspelling of the word "googol", which refers to 10100, the number represented by a 1 followed by one hundred zeros. Having found its way increasingly into everyday language, the verb "google", was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, meaning "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."

A patent describing part of Google's ranking mechanism (PageRank) was granted on September 4, 2001. The patent was officially assigned to Stanford University and lists Lawrence Page as the inventor.

Sources include: Wikipedia


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