Google’s 20th An­niver­sary

THE WEB’S FAVOURITE SEARCH EN­GINE HAS HITS THE BIG TWO-0– BUT WHERE NEXT FOR SEARCH, AND THE COM­PANY?

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HAPPY BIRTH­DAY, BIG guy! Google is 20 years old. Or maybe, de­pend­ing on your def­i­ni­tion, closer to 22. The com­pany for­mally in­cor­po­rated in late 1998, although the ini­tial seeds of the search en­gine were planted in Jan­uary 1996 when cre­ators Larry Page and Sergey Brin cre­ated a re­search project (then dubbed ‘Back­Rub’) at Stan­ford Univer­sity. From that sim­ple project – which con­cen­trated on rank­ing pages based on the num­ber of other pages that linked to them – grew the world’s largest search en­gine, which now (along with the rest of Google’s many side projects) con­sists of two bil­lion lines of code, all ac­ces­si­ble to the com­pany’s 25,000 en­gi­neers, and an over­all cat­a­logue of some­where in the re­gion of 130 tril­lion in­di­vid­ual pages – that’s an as­ton­ish­ing num­ber.

THE FU­TURE FOR GOOGLE

It’s fair to say that growth of Google rev­o­lu­tionised search, which was based on man­u­ally pop­u­lated in­dexes and some­what un­re­li­able search en­gines be­fore its al­go­rithm came along, and no­body has come close since. Even Mi­cro­soft’s own search en­gine, Bing, hasn’t been able to gain the same kind of trac­tion: as of April 2018, Google main­tains an 86% share of the search mar­ket, com­pared to Bing’s 6% Google has also been re­spon­si­ble for ad­vances in se­cu­rity, in web email (Gmail), in on­line video (YouTube), and its now-par­ent com­pany, Al­pha­bet, is work­ing on ad­vances in ro­bot­ics, health­care, and more.

So what does Google do next? In a word, noth­ing. Its al­go­rithm – the code that de­ter­mines how pages are ranked – is con­stantly be­ing tweaked and im­proved to sidestep web­sites that game the sys­tem, mean­ing the qual­ity of its re­sults con­tin­ues to im­prove. Dis­rupt­ing the sta­tus quo that has put Google on top of the search world wouldn’t make sense.

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