The Google Story : If it is Not on Google, It Doesnot Exist

Editor’s Note
: Millward Brown’s Brand Z 2014 Survey saw Google take the top spot as the world’s most admired brand. In this dream run it piped to the post such stalwarts like Apple, IBM, McDonalds and Microsoft. Founded in 1998, Google is the youngest member of the ‘brand value hall of fame’. The article discusses the elements which transformed Google from an upstart to a world beater.




It has been consistently rated as the best company in the world to work for, it gets 640 million users every day for its web search service , it handles about 100 billion internet searches per month, by earnings it is ranked 46th globally with revenue of USD 60 billion, it employs the best chefs as well as top notch computer talent, it allows employees to bring their pets to work, Google, the verb, has found place in the Oxford dictionary, it employs 53,000 people globally , it is just 16 years old….. and it never ceases to surprise. Welcome to the world of Google.

Google and its products have become the swiss knife of the internet - simple, functional and productive. The market leader in internet search, Google has consistently redefined technology and increased its product offerings. So pervasive has been its impact that in many way it decides how we live our lives.

Larry Page and Sergei Brin, the cofounders of Google Photo Courtesy: The Guardian

Destiny Intervened
It all started in 1996 when Larry Page enrolled at Stanford for a Phd in computer science. Having grown up amidst technology , Larry’s father being a professor in computer science, technology for Larry was a means to change the world. He was not ready to settle for a regular thesis topic, his thesis had to be a game changer. And he exasperated his thesis guide Prof Terry Winograd with some big ideas whose time probably had not come. Destiny’s sleight of hand intervened. It was Larry’s good fortune(and ours) that his thesis guide persuaded him to consider exploring the mathematical properties of the world wide web, not earth shattering on the face of it but albeit interesting. Larry later would recall this as the best advice he ever got, for it lead to the idea which would power the Google search engine.

Comrade in arms was fellow research student at Stanford ,Sergei Brin . Both Larry and Sergei could almost agree on nothing as they spent hours discussing the World Wide Web, getting into fierce disagreements, however destiny helped keep their friendship intact. Sergei the implementer and Page the thinker eventually co founded Google, superbly complementing each other as they lead Google to super stardom.

The destiny masterstroke was to come in a most unlikely way. The kernel of the algorithm that would eventually fuel Google came to Page in a “vivid dream” in his Stanford dorm room. Recalling the event Page in the 2009 University of Michigan commencement address said “When I suddenly woke up, I was thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links and… I grabbed a pen and started writing!” Ranking webpages by the number of times it has been linked /referenced by other websites is what Google essentially does in response to a search query. More than a 100 years ago August Kekule dreamt the structure of the Benzene ring and revolutionaised organic chemistry, Larry’s dream revolutionised the internet search.

Flip side of destiny was that neither Larry or Sergei completed their Phd. Probably no one is complaining, except Sergei’s mother who thinks that while Google is excellent, a Phd would not have hurt.

Google’s Moment of Brilliance
Back in 1998 when Google started its operations from a garage in Pao Alto near Stanford, the internet search engine market had players like Yahoo, Lycos, AltaVista, , Excite, Infoseek. They had millions of users , but non terribly satisfied. The results based on key word tracking were not very relevant. This Google corrected.

Google brought the term “relevance” at the heart of internet search. The relevance was to be determined by ranking all the websites having the search key word by the number of times the website been linked or referenced by other websites. That is why we find that for many search terms on Google, Wikipedia comes out at the top, this is so because wiki pages are amongst the most referenced on the internet. This approach was a game changer and made Google a household name. The Google search algorithim is a highly guarded secret, and has over time evolved and been customised to the user preferences.

Search Engines in early days used to depend on banner advertisement for revenue, which meant cluttered home pages and high load times. Google came up with a clean interface, which it still maintains despite losing millions of dollars by not putting any advertisement on the Google search home page. Minimalist design with highly functional features remains the hall mark of Google products.

Google business model a game changer
When Google started, internet search websites were not making any money.Google introduced a smart, innovative and risky system - Adwords , based on pay per click, i.e. payment is made by the advertiser depending on number of clicks the user makes on an advertisement and not by the virtue of it being displayed. Google also introduced its “relevance” concept. The advertisement were not random but were relevant to the term searched. This increased the probablity of an advertisement being clicked many folds. Today 97% of Google revenue comes from advertising.

Google hungry for your time
While the sucess of Google’s search engine kept the bankers busy, it followed it with innovative and outstanding products either through inhouse development or strategic acquisitions - Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Street View, Gmail, Google Finance, Youtube, Picasa to name a few of its more than 150 product offering. Its web browser - Google Chrome commands 60 % market share despite being a late entrant. Android another Google offering has cornered 80% of the mobile OS market.
All this Google offers for free. The more time users spend on Google products more is the advertising revenue.

Dreaming What is Next
To remain ahead of competition Google continually strives to bring the next big idea in computing. No doubt some of the products coming out from Google Labs seem to have jumped straight out of a science fiction book.

Google recently introduced driverless cars which is packed with technology enabling the car to make a 360 degree 3 D picture of its surroundings , and then drive on its own. No driver, No steering No pedals required. Another innovation is Google Glass eyewear, with voice/ gesture activated computer, a HD display and a camera. The internet now sits just above your right eye and can be accessed on the fly as you go about your daily routine. No less astounding are the Google Wi Fi balloons and drones which will be stationed in the earth’s stratosphere, beaming the internet to 2/3rd of the world which is presently outside the internet footprint. Google engineers have now made blood sugar monitoring easy thorugh use of wearable glucose monitoring contact lenses, mounted with minatureised chip, sensor and an antenna . Tear sugar content is cheked every second and the readings sent to a smartphone. No more painful blood based sugar monitoring is required.

Leading these transformational product innovations is GoogleX, a super secret lab situated in a couple of red brick buildings at the edge of Google complex at Mountain View. Here solution to some of human kinds most intractable problems affecting millions are approached with cutting edge technology and a faith of changing the world for the better.

Google has the gumption to dream big and deliver. For instance Google Books, with 30 million books scanned and available on the internet, is the largest online body of human knowledge. The target is to scan all books ever published by mankind.

‘Stan’, the in-house Dinosaur at Google Headquarters Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia

Investor in People
Google puts effort in sourcing the best of talent, and doing its utmost in retaining them. Google gets about a million applicants every year, of which only a fraction are hired. And to keep such top notch talent motivated, it gives a workplace which nurtures innovation , personal growth and a chance to make a difference to the world. It allows its engineers 20% of their time to work on projects which are their personal passion – which has lead to breakthroughs like the Gmail. The perks to Google employees go beyond the usual- hair cut and eyebrow shaping on the house, company gym and laundry services, shoe repair, dress alteration, massage spas, sleeping pods for a short nap, ,childcare services, sports facilities to bust the stress , snack stations for a quick bite at easy access within 150 feet of each staff. Employees can brings dogs (not cats) to work, wear casuals, there is doctor on the campus, electric scooters to travel across the campus. The food facilities at Google offices is legendary - breakfast, lunch dinners is on the house. Ar Google Headquaters there are 25 company cafeterias each café is helmed by its own chef, most hailing from the world of fine dining. Five executive chefs provide oversight. Less healthy treats are parked on the bottom shelves, forcing employees to stoop to add the calories. Nearly half the produce served is organic. Google 15- the term denotes the fifteen pounds that new Google employees supposedly gain in their first year at Google from gorging on the omnipresent free food.

Google Giving
Google is one of the most philanthropic U.S. companies, donating over $1.1 billion to charitable causes, equaling 9.3 percent of pre tax profits (in 2012). Its Global Impact Awards provides funding to non profits to adress some of world’s biggest challenges. The grants range from protecting wildlife, science education for girls, governance, agriculture and more.During a disaster, Google crisis response teams deploy crowd sourced crisis map, people finder, emergency resource pages to aid disaster response. Google annualy gives scholarships to women and persons with disabilities to purue computer and technology education. It also holds the prestigious online science fair for high school students globally. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with hundreds of museums, cultural institutions and archives to host the world’s cultural treasures online. Each time we but a search term on Google the electricity expended at the Google data centers to respond to our query is most probably powered by renewable energy from the wind farms setup in the vicinity. 34% of its operations are powered by renewable energy.

Google wishes to be internet’s ‘ with you, for you, always’ and it is in the ‘always’ that lie its billions.

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