The most used search engine in the world turns 25 on Monday, September 4. On that date – in 1998 – two doctoral students from Stanford University (California), Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were developing a search engine whose new algorithm made it possible to classify Internet sites according to the number of other websites that link to it.
Google’s supremacy needs no introduction. Last August, the giant held a global market share of approximately 92%. Its closest competitor, Bing, held around 3% market share, followed by Yahoo! with just over 1%. It is only in China (where it has been banned since 2017) and Russia that Google has real competitors, Baidu and Yandex being preferred.
A look back at ten milestones in the history of this student project which ended up winning everything in its path, until it became the most important digital giant.
Nothing to do with Silicon Valley. The first workspace of Larry Page and Sergey Brin is none other than a garage, located on Santa Margarita Avenue in Menlo Park (California). A garage rented by their friend Susan Wojcicki, future marketing director of Google (from 1999 to 2014), then general manager of YouTube (2014-2023).
In 1999, Page and Brin changed scenery and opted for ultramodern offices in Mountain View, one of the main cities that make up Silicon Valley.
In 2018, on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, Google added the possibility of visit the “Google garage” on StreetView.
Named from a misspelling
The name of the digital juggernaut is derived from a mathematical term referring to the number 1, followed by one hundred zeros. A choice of name reflecting the desire of the founders to compile large amounts of information.
But according to the legend, the name Google would be the consequence of a spelling error during the registration of the company, the mathematical term in question being written in fact “Googol”.
In 1999, Google was almost sold
A year after the start of the project, Larry Page and Sergey Brin plan to sell Google in order to continue their studies more serenely. The potential buyer is none other than Excite, one of the most important Internet portals along with Yahoo!, Lycos and Netscape.
After a $1 million and then $750,000 proposal encouraged by Vinod Khosla, one of Silicon Valley’s most influential investors, the CEO of Excite backs out of the purchase and Page and Brin ultimately keep their company. A company whose value is today estimated at more than 1,000 billion dollars.
Thousands of “doodles”
The very first doodle (temporary modification of the Google logo honoring a personality or an event) – the “Burning man” – was intended to indicate to the public that Page and Brin had gone to the festival of the same name.
Twenty-five years later, several thousand doodles have been created by a dedicated team of illustrators (“doodlers”). International Women’s Rights Day, Charlie Chaplin’s birthday, National Day of Bosnia and Herzegovina… A wide range of graphics, sometimes interactive, all archived by Google and searchable at any time.
“To google”, a verb since 2006
In 2006, the oxford dictionary added “to google” as a verb to refer to searching for information on the Internet, regardless of the search engine used.
This verb is now included in several dictionaries (in French, googoliser or googles) with the meaning of using the Google search engine to obtain information on the Web.
Translated into over 80 languages (including Klingon, the language of “Star Trek”)
Used around the world, Google translates its home page into more than 80 languages, and makes its Google Translate service available in these same languages. The company’s latest language additions include Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Somali, Zulu, Mongolian, Nepali, Punjabi and Maori.
Klingon, the language spoken by the eponymous alien race in the “Star Trek” series, was also one of the language options available.
In August 2013, a service outage preventing Google from being accessible for 11 minutes led to a 40% drop in global Internet traffic.
Faced with Apple, Google pays Android
From 2007, Google began to plan the release of its own mobile phones, to compete with Apple, another giant, led by Steve Jobs. The mobile operating system, Android, is bought by Google for fifty million dollars. The first Android mobile phone, the “Nexus One”, was released in January 2010. Since then, many other mobile phone companies (Samsung, Huawei, Sony…) have also been using Android.
Today, Android powers more than 3 billion devices worldwide. Last August, the operating system had a 71.75% market share, far ahead of all its competitors, the main one being none other than Apple’s iOS which, according to Statista data, monopolizes 27.6% market share.
YouTube, Waze, Uber… colossal takeovers and investments
Google’s trajectory led to its IPO in 2004, marking a milestone in its journey. Over the years, the company has strategically acquired companies such as Waze, integrating valuable features into its ecosystem, especially Google Maps.
From acquisition to acquisition, Google has thus become a technological giant involved in a wide range of activities. Android, YouTube, Waze, Blogger… Between 2010 and 2015, Google acquired on average one new company every week.
And when Google wasn’t buying companies, its investment fund, Google Ventures, was investing to take equity stakes in other companies. In August 2013, he made a record investment of over $257 million. The beneficiary company: Uber.
$282.8 billion in revenue in 2022
In 2022, Alphabet – parent company, of which Google is the largest subsidiary – generated some $282.8 billion in revenue (vs. 29.3 billion in 2010, and 182.5 billion in 2020).
In the sights of the European Commission and American justice
Google is also in the sights of US antitrust authorities. Accused of harming competition with its dominance in the online advertising market, the company is being sued by the US Department of Justice and eight states. The trial will begin on September 12.
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