Google has not only had a transformative effect on our use of the internet since its creation almost twenty years ago, but it’s also changed the way we think in our everyday lives. If you wished to know the year the Opera House was opened before Google was around, you would have to look at the ‘Sydney Opera House’ entry in an encyclopedia. Whilst you would eventually find the answer, you would also have to skim through other irrelevant information. Now, with Google search, you can specifically look up this information, and it will be displayed for you at the top of the results compiled.
Google has also transformed our economic, political and social worlds like never before. It allows businesses to be found easily, offering them a way to promote their products, it allows political debates to be viewed and commented on around the world, and most importantly, it has changed the way we find information by simply ‘googling it’.
However, with more and more people now using apps to locate information rather than searching it on the web, can Google maintain its powerful dominance within the Tech industry?
GOOGLE – WHAT IS IT AND WHEN WAS IT CREATED?
Google is a multi-national technology company. It originally began with search engine functionality but since grown to now include many different products and services such as email (Gmail), video sharing (YouTube), business utilities (Google Docs) and others.
Below is a timeline of Google’s most significant historic developments since its creation in 1995:
1995 – The Google story begins when Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University.
1996 – Page and Brin began their business partnership, working in their dorm to build a search engine that used links to determine the importance of individual pages on the World Wide Web. This was named “Backrub”. The name was later changed to Google, a play on the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros and aptly reflected the Google mission – ‘to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’.
Aug 1998 – In the next few years, they caught the attention of the academic community as well as Silicon Valley Investors. This led to the Co-founder of Sun to write them a $100,000 cheque, and Google Inc. was born.
Soon after, they moved out of their dorms and into their first office – a garage in California owned by the current CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki.
Late 1998 – The first Google Doodle was created – a stick figure in the logo announcing that the entire staff was playing hooky at the Burning Man Festival.
Over the next few years, Google expanded rapidly – hiring Engineers and building a sales team. This meant they needed bigger premises. They eventually moved to the current Headquarters in Mountain View, California.
TODAY – Google now has more than 60,000 employees in 50 different countries and billions of people around the world use their products and services every day.
GOOGLE AND ITS TRANSFORMATIVE EFFECT ON OUR LIVES
By changing the way in which we retrieve and discover information in our lives, Google has been able to have a transformative effect on many people around the world.
As mentioned previously, if a person wished to find a specific fact on a topic area before Google and the Internet, they would need to use an Encyclopedia, and find the entry of this topic. When located, they would have to skim through all other related information before they found what they wanted.
Now, we can simply ‘google it’, and the result will be of that specific fact only. This, in a sense, is comparable with looking at the “index of a book first, rather than a table of contents” (Cortada’s book (as cited in Rothman, 2018)).
This has changed the way we think in our daily lives as well, causing us to think in an ‘index-based fashion’. As a result, the way we interact with information is largely more disjointed than it was for our ancestors.
So, whilst there is nothing wrong with this, people now have “bits and pieces of data … (with) no connection other than the connection they want to make.” (Cortada’s book (as cited in Rothman, 2018)).
WHO OWNS GOOGLE AND WHAT IS THEIR BUSINESS MODEL?
When the company was officially born, the owners of Google were its creators, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
However, over the years, the company has grown tremendously. In order to cope with this change, Google has reorganised itself into multiple companies, separating its core internet business from its other projects.
Now, Google (and all of its other operations) are now run under a new umbrella company known as Alphabet Inc, the CEO of which is Larry Page and the President, Sergey Brin.
When Google first began, it was unclear of how it was to make any money, as the service provided was free of charge. When it was released to the public in 2004, Page and Brin wrote a letter which clarified their intentions:
“Our goal is to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible. In pursuing this goal, we may do things that we believe have a positive impact on the world, even if the near term financial returns are not obvious. For example, we make our services as widely available as we can by supporting over 90 languages and by providing most services for free. Advertising is our principal source of revenue, and the ads we provide are relevant and useful rather than intrusive and annoying. We strive to provide users with great commercial information.” (Sergey and Brin’s Founders’ Letter (as cited in Cuofano, n.d.)).
AdWords allows people to advertise via ads displayed in Google’s search results, with the hope of driving traffic to their own website.
AdSense lets publishers monetise their own website by earning money from AdWords displayed next to their content. Every time someone clicks on these ads, they receive a small payment.
Businesses pay Google for this privilege, and hence, their revenue increases.
GOOGLE AND ITS PLACE IN THE TECH INDUSTRY
There are five dominant companies in the Tech industry, with Alphabet (Google’s umbrella company) being one
of them. Google recently made the decision to house all its operations under the one company now known as Alphabet Inc.
As figure 4 depicts, Google’s ‘traditional services’ (such as YouTube and Google Search) are one of many ‘operations’ contained within the Alphabet company.
Some other ‘operations’ includes Google’s secretive ‘moonshots’ (new development projects under Google X), Nest (smart device company) and the Calico (a research and development biotech company).
WHO ARE GOOGLE’S PARTNERS?
When we use Google’s services or products, specific partners can collect information about your browser and or device, for example, some YouTube advertisers can learn about the audience of their video using cookies or similar technologies.
Some of Google’s partners include:
Nielsen – a global measurement and data analytics company
Kantar – a research, data and insights company
DoubleVerify – a company who collects info about advertising and web traffic
WHO ARE GOOGLE’S COMPETITORS?
Google has competitors in many different areas, the main ones being The Big Four – Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.
In other areas, Google’s competitors include:
Operating Systems – Apple
Search Engines – Bing, Yahoo!
Cloud Based Services – OneDrive (Microsoft), Dropbox
Video Streaming – Netflix, Hulu
WHO SUPPLIES GOOGLE’S GOODS AND SERVICES?
Since its beginning, Google has produced many of its goods and services itself.
From Google Search to the most recent entering into the Smartphone segment (with the Pixel), Google has had a strong history of building its products and services in-house and evolving them over time.
WHO REGULATES GOOGLE’S ACTIONS?
Due to the massively powerful company Google has become as well as its ability to track its user’s search history and location, there has been serious concerns regarding people’s privacy and more importantly, who is in charge of regulating Google’s actions.
Currently, there is no individual group who is in charge of regulating Google, and the decision to have the Government act as its regulator has been a continuing debate for many years.
As it keeps its ranking algorithms private, there is also no way to see if they purposely rank certain search results higher than others, which many believe is the case.
Ultimately, Google is a company, and it is your choice whether you decide to use their services or not.
WHO USES GOOGLE?
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not used Google before, or at least heard of it.
Google offers us the ability to find anything on the World Wide Web with ease, and it is constantly evolving and improving its efficiency to deliver us the best search results possible. Because of this, it is no stranger to helping businesses and individuals find information in a timely manner.
Other than its search functionality, Google’s abundance of products and services are also widely used. To name a few:
- Google’s popular Maps service (Google Maps) is often the preferred choice for navigation among the public
- YouTube is the most well-known and popular video sharing service on the Internet, used for business and personal use and
- Google’s Business Apps (Google Drive, Gmail, Google Docs) are a popular choice for businesses to manage and edit documents in real-time.
HOW HAS GOOGLE TRANSFORMED OUR USE AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE INTERNET?
Google has changed the way people relate socially and politically
Google has had a major transformative effect on the way we communicate with each other.
As with other technologies which prevent us from having to talk face-to-face, Google has eliminated the need to ask another person about something we are unsure of.
Now, we can simply ‘google it’, and the chances are that it will be more accurate than the answer that any of us would be able to provide.
This is good for efficiency and accuracy, but bad for socialising skills.
Google’s search algorithm prioritises mainstream information sources and is heavily influenced by PageRank, a mechanism that counts the inbound links from other websites and uses that to rank them in search results.
If a political debate occurred, for example, and this was linked to millions of times, this results in a high PageRank, and Google users will be more likely to see and follow this link. This could possibly impact their political views.
It has introduced a new type of business model to the industry
When Google first began, there was no ‘plan’ as to how they would make money.
In 1999, Google founders Page and Brin met Bill Gross, the founder of another search engine.
He suggested that rather than rely on the traditional form of advertising where advertisers would get paid on the number of impressions of an ad (CPM), they should use a new model (based on the Cost-Per-Click model) whereby a company would pay an advertisement only if the user found it so relevant to click.
Google decided to implement this new business model. It must have been the right decision because not only do Google now generate 88% of their revenue from advertising (where CPC is the main contributor), but, in 2002, Gross attempted to sue them for stealing his idea.
It has been used to mobilise social and cultural change
Google’s original and current mission statement is to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’.
It is hard to doubt they have done this as Google not only provides easy access to a wealth of information, but has also had on effect on our everyday lives both socially and culturally.
Not only is the term ‘google it’ a common phrase in our society, but, in 2006, the word ‘Google’ was officially included as a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the most authoritative dictionaries of the English language.
It has triggered new debate around regulatory processes
Although there are currently no regulations governing the actions of Google, there has been much debate on this recently due to concerns regarding privacy and the amount of power and control Google has over the market.
Whilst a lot of the public agree that this should occur, there are some who believe these regulations will have an adverse effect in a lot of areas. They argue that the implementation of regulations not only prohibits growth and innovation, but will also make results from search engines standardised.
If regulations should be placed on companies like Google, most people believe they should be implemented fairly and objectively, a challenge when dealing with the vastness of the internet.
There is no doubting that Google (and its search engine specifically) has changed the way we use the internet, allowing efficient and useful information to be gathered from intelligently deducing our keystroke searches.
Gone are the days of going to the library to conduct research for a school assignment or asking a stranger where the Shopping Centre is, today, one only has to ‘google it’ to have their answers in a matter of seconds.
In the modern age, technology is constantly changing and being updated quicker than ever before, and companies like Google must constantly improve and evolve their own products and services to ensure they maintain their appeal in the Tech industry.
The recent trend of more consumers switching to using apps to find information rather than searching it on the web is a significant transformation of the way we use the internet that Google will have to overcome in order to remain competitive.
Will they be able to maintain their dominance of the Tech Industry? Maybe they should ‘google it’ to find out.