Google (1998- ) is both an Internet search engine and the American company that created and maintains it. It is now the top search engine in the world.
Like any search engine, Google is a page on the Web that you can go to to find all the web pages that mention the given word or words that you write in.
But the Web has countless pages, even for uncommon words. It seemed that the Web was going to die under its own weight, that it would become too large to find anything useful in it, even with search engines.
A good search engine will list pages from most important to least important. But how do you tell which pages are more important for a given word?
Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Stanford came up with a beautiful idea:
What matters is not whether a page has the word you are looking for, but how many times it is linked to by those that do!
For example, if you put in “New York Times” into Google, it will list the New York Times website first. Not because anyone told Google where the newspaper has its website, but because of all the pages that mentioned “New York Times”, it was linked to the most.
This process is called PageRank.
Brin and Page wrote a computer program that did this and ran it on some computers at Stanford. It worked!
They knew they had the best search engine in the world. But to start a company, they needed some serious money and a way to make money from searches.
First they went to Yahoo!, the top search engine at the time. It had also started at Stanford. Yahoo! said no, search engines were already as good as they were going to get. The real money was what you could add to a search engine. “Portals” was where it was at, they said.
Then they went to Andy Bechtolsheim, a founder of Sun Microsystems, a computer maker. They told him about Google on his front steps. He got it. He understood how great Google was. He got them the money they needed and the rest is history.
Google’s searches are free, so how do they make money? By selling search words. When someone searches on that word, your link appears on that page.
Nothing new in that. But Google did two things that most search engines did not:
- They kept your link separate from the search result itself. A Google search should be utterly trustworthy.
- You only paid when someone followed your link. This is called pay per click.
Prodigy, an early online service, had the second idea as far back as 1988, but Google was the first to get it to work.
Google has since got into other things, like searching for pictures, news and directions, putting up pictures of the entire Earth on the Web as well as all the old books in libraries.
The Google logo through the years:
– Abagond, 2007.