Posted by: iExperience on Aug 29, 2011
If you know anything about Grahamstown weather, it’s that it is the most unpredictable, ever changing aspect which makes this town a little less exciting than it is to start off with. Google is similar in nature.
What started off as a basic search engine has turned into an empire that could give a number of countries a run for their money… Literally. According to Quora, the equity value of the firm was estimated to be $186 billion in April 2011. So it is not surprising that the company is going above and beyond the expectations of many.
It is usually under this heading that one finds all the important and impressive achievements of a company in a nice, neat chronological order. However, with all the weird and wonderful things Google has been up to in the last 13 years, the likelihood of you reading till the end of the post if all of that was included would be very slim. So here are some of the interesting highlights:
It all started in 1996… Working in a Stanford dorm room, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (who were computer science students at the time) collaborated in the search engine BackRub. A year later the pair changed the name of the search engine to Google.
After acquiring some capital and filing for incorporation in California in September 1998, Page and Brin hired Craig Silverstein (a fellow computer science grad student at Stanford) as their first employee. By the end of that year Google was recognised as the search engine of choice in the Top 100 Web Sites for 1998.
By May 2000 the company won its’ first Webby Awards for Technical Achievement (voted by judges) and Peoples’ Voice (voted by users). At this stage it was not surprising that Google became the world’s largest search engine, having the first billion-URL index. Only eight years later, Google’s indexing system indicated that there were over 1 trillion unique URLs (which was growing by several billion pages per day).
Managing and running this ever-expanding company required more space and man-power. Quickly the company grew from an awkward tripod into an international chain. With companies in all parts of the world including Tokyo, China, India, Australia, Bangalore, Ireland, São Paulo and Mexico City to name a few.
The “Googleplex” (completed in March 2004) is one of the most popular of all the Google offices. Being voted one of the best places to work, this work environment for 800+ employees is like no other. For example, in May 2007 Google collaborated with Growing Connection to plant a vegetable garden in the middle of the Googleplex. To promote a healthier lifestyle, these veggies were used by chefs in preparing meals available to staff employees from their very own café. In June the same year, they also installed solar panels in an attempt to be completely carbon-neutral by the end of 2007.
The sign outside the Googleplex (in Mountain View) courtesy of flickr.com
Company morale seemed to be considered from the start when in 1999, Yoshka, Google’s first “company” dog, joined the workforce. Soon after (in November 1999) Charlie Ayers became Google’s first chef. If that wasn’t enough to keep employees proud, American Dialect Society members voted “google” the “most useful” Word of the Year for 2002 and in June 2006 The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added “Google” as a verb.
If it wasn’t clear already, the growth of Google can also be measured in terms of the language. Having 10 language versions of Google.com in May 2000 was nothing in comparison to the 72 language interfaces it had in February 2002. If that wasn’t impressive enough the fact that Klingon was one of those languages made my inner nerd smile.
Another impressive stride to reducing language barriers is Google Translate. After adding Turkish, Thai, Hungarian, Estonian, Albanian, Maltese and Galician in February 2009, Google Translate became capable of automatic translation between 41 languages, covering 98 percent of the languages read by Internet users. The over-achieving Googlers topped this in August 2009 when Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh and Yiddish were added to Google Translate, bringing the total number of supported languages to 51 (2 550 language pairs).
Over the past 13 years, Google has acquired more than 100 companies. Deja.com’s Usenet Discussion Service was Google’s first public acquisition in February 2001. Since Google has bought more for more. Google’s three most expensive acquisitions so far have been YouTube (for a shocking $1.65 billion), DoubleClick (for $3.1 billion in April 2007), and most recently on August 15 2011, Motorola Mobility. This marked the most expensive acquisition in the history Google, Inc., who paied a staggering $12.5 billion for this company. Other noteworthy buys include dMarc Broadcasting, On2 Technologies, Slide.com, Admeld, Postini, ITA Software. These companies have helped Google broaden its reach in terms of its products and services.
Some of the web products Google boasts include Google Web Search, Google Chrome and Google Directory. However, Google has expanded into mobile, media, home and office, social and innovation platforms as well. Specialised image, news, blog and scholar searches and Google+, a new social networking site which is still managing to complete with Facebook even in its infancy, are just some of the reasons why Google has succeeded and could still succeed in future.
One of the latest innovations is the weather layer to Google Maps, available from mid August 2011. This layer takes detailed information (including temperature, humidity and wind conditions) from weather.com and displays this on Google Maps. This might just become my new best friend considering Grahamstown’s “four-seasons-in-one-day” weather. However, this notion of making the unpredictable predictable is simply ironic considering the ever-changing (and sometime random) nature of Google itself.