Google’s 19th anniversay
This month witnessed the nineteenth anniversary (note anniversary not birthday) of one of the most recognisable names in the tech world. It is a company that touches 90.3 per cent of Internet connected users on a daily basis, and sits at number two on the US Stock Exchange with a market capitalisation of $647.47B but if George Bell had said “yes” to allowing the founders to continue on with their study, history would currently be telling a different story. In 1997, Larry Page arrived at Stanford University and, with fate playing a heavy hand, Sergey Brin was randomly assigned to show Page around the campus. By September 4 the following year, they had incorporated a company that would become the number one search engine in the world and deliver an individual net worth to each founder of US$45B.
For those of us that can remember using the slow dial-up Internet in the mid-nineties, there were other search engines. AltaVista was my engine of choice in those days but you could also use Yahoo; Excite; WebCrawler; MSN and many others. Page and Brin originally began their University research project with the name of BackRub because the engine took a different approach and analysed the back links on various Web pages to try and gain an understanding of the significance of a Web site.
A year after Google was incorporated, Brin and Page found the research project was taking too much time away from their studies and offered to sell what they had created to Excite CEO, George Bell. Excite was started by six Stanford Alumni and seemed an obvious place to explore a potential sale.
After initially asking for US$1M they were talked down to US$750K before George Bell, the CEO, rejected the offer completely. How the fortunes changed for the two organisations from that point. After mergers and bankruptcy court, the Excite brand and domain was sold for only a couple of million dollars in 2001 whereas Google, with its founders deciding to ignore their study and focus on business, was valued at over US$2B when it went public in 2004.
Google now employs more than 72,000 people across the world and generates over US$75B per year in digital ad revenue alone. Many people are aware that Google was created from the word ‘googol’ which is the number one followed by one hundred zeroes. They aren’t quite there yet, but there are hundreds of billions of Web pages within the Google search index and the 100,000,000 Gigabyte database is hosted on over 900,000 servers across their 15 company owned data centres. The search engine serves 4.6 billion users across 160 countries searching for items in 123 different languages. Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second and, when you consider that each search uses more coding and computing power than it took to send Apollo 11 to the moon, you start to gain an understanding of why they need the amount of computing power they have.
I would think that having a company become ubiquitous with the product would be the ultimate aim for any orgnaisation. Who asks for yeast extract? We all ask for Vegemite which is not the actual product but a brand name. In the same way, Google is now a verb in the dictionary but Google executives were initially worried with the idea that their name was becoming the ubiquitous term for Internet searches after they had spent so much money on creating a brand. It is fair to say that their concerns were quickly overcome as the success continued.
So Happy Anniversary Google – and may you have many more. There is no doubt that Google has changed the world we live in. On a small note, it is hard to know the exact date to celebrate the anniversary. This year Google celebrated on 27 September but the company was incorporated on 4 September. It has been celebrated on several different dates in September. Google’s official explanation explains a lot about the culture within Google. "The exact date when we celebrate our birthday has moved around over the years, depending on when people feel like having cake."