Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page, a Ph.D. student at Stanford. In search for a dissertation theme, Page considered among other things exploring the mathematical properties of the World Wide Web, understanding its link structure as a huge graph. His supervisor Terry Winograd encouraged him to pick this idea (which Page later recalled as "the best advice I ever got") and Page focused on the problem of finding out which web pages link to a given page, considering the number and nature of such backlinks to be valuable information about that page (with the role of citations in academic publishing in mind). In his research project, nicknamed "BackRub", he was soon joined by Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford Ph.D. student and close friend, whom he had first met in the summer of 1995 in a group of potential new students which Brin had volunteered to show around the campus. Page's web crawler began exploring the web in March 1996, setting out from Page's own Stanford home page as its only starting point. To convert the backlink data that it gathered into a measure of importance for a given web page, Brin and Page developed the PageRank algorithm. Analyzing BackRub's output which, for a given URL, consisted of a list of backlinks ranked by importance it occurred to them that a search engine based on PageRank would produce better results than existing techniques (existing search engines at the time essentially ranked results according to how many times the search term appeared on a page). A small search engine called RankDex was already exploring a similar strategy.
Originally the search engine used the Stanford website with the domain google.stanford.edu. The domain google.com was registered on September 15, 1997. They formally incorporated their company, Google Inc., on September 4, 1998 at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California.
The name "Google" originated from a misspelling of "googol," which refers to the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros. Having found its way increasingly into everyday language, the verb, "google," was added to the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, meaning, "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."
By the end of 1998, Google had an index of about 60 million pages. The home page was still marked "BETA", but an article in Salon.com already argued that Google's search results were better than those of competitors like Hotbot or Excite.com, and praised it for being more technologically innovative than the overloaded portal sites (like Yahoo!, Excite.com, Lycos, Netscape's Netcenter, AOL.com, Go.com and MSN.com) which at that time, during the growing dot-com bubble, were seen as "the future of the Web", especially by stock market investors.
In March 1999, the company moved into offices at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, home to several other noted Silicon Valley technology startups. After quickly outgrowing two other sites, the company leased a complex of buildings in Mountain View at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway from Silicon Graphics (SGI) in 1999.The company has remained at this location ever since, and the complex has since become known as the Googleplex (a play on the word googolplex, a 1 followed by a googol of zeros). In 2006, Google bought the property from SGI for $319 million.
The Google search engine attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users, who liked its simple design. In 2000, Google began selling advertisements associated with search keywords. The ads were text-based to maintain an uncluttered page design and to maximize page loading speed. Keywords were sold based on a combination of price bid and click-throughs, with bidding starting at $.05 per click. This model of selling keyword advertising was pioneered by Goto.com (later renamed Overture Services, before being acquired by Yahoo! and rebranded as Yahoo! Search Marketing). While many of its dot-com rivals failed in the new Internet marketplace, Google quietly rose in stature while generating revenue.
In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, owner of Blogger, a pioneering and leading web log hosting website. Some analysts considered the acquisition inconsistent with Google's business model. However, the acquisition secured the company's competitive ability to use information gleaned from blog postings to improve the speed and relevance of articles contained in a companion product to the search engine, Google News.
At its peak in early 2004, Google handled upwards of 84.7 percent of all search requests on the World Wide Web through its website and through its partnerships with other Internet clients like Yahoo!, AOL, and CNN. In February 2004, Yahoo! dropped its partnership with Google, providing an independent search engine of its own. This cost Google some market share, yet Yahoo!'s move highlighted Google's own distinctiveness, and today the verb "to google" has entered a number of languages (first as a slang verb and now as a standard word), meaning, "to perform a web search" (a possible indication of "Google" becoming a genericized trademark).
Analysts speculate that Google's response to its separation from Yahoo! will be to continue to make technical and visual enhancements to personalized searches, using the personal data that is gathering from orkut, Gmail, and Google Product Search to produce unique results based on the user. Frequently, new Google enhancements or products appear in its inventory. Google Labs, the experimental section of Google.com, helps Google maximize its relationships with its users by including them in the beta development, design and testing stages of new products and enhancements of already existing ones.
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