Last week Google turned 20 years old. To give some reference of when Google first made its appearance as a search browser, this was the same year when Microsoft became the biggest company in the world. Harry Potter first came onto the book scene. And the average cost for a gallon of gas was $1.15.
While the search engine did not begin as an all reaching enterprise, it has now developed into a company that many of us could not do without.
And a company who holds a lot of data. More data than Facebook.
So, how did Google rise from the ether, exactly what all can Google offer us, and are we at risk from the behemoth of modern-day internet?
In 1996, Google began as a college project designed to enable a single, integrated, and universal digital library. Similar to Facebook, the first trial run of Google’s search engine was on Stanford’s web.
Although it took two years for investors to take notice, the same year Google began as an official company they were recognized as the search engine of choice. The official mission statement: organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Unofficial mission statement: Don’t be evil.
By 2000, searches were made by 18 million people per day. And that’s when they introduced their first expansion, Adwords.
From that time forward, the tech giant has steadily been marching forward through both acquisitions and internal development. And in 2006, to google became an official verb listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, making Google the only company to earn profits and exist as a verb.
Current apps and services
While most people are aware of the basic services, we can sometimes miss the full scope of what Google offers. This can be due to the rarity for crossover. But it can also be due to the fact the services are so pervasive we don’t even notice it anymore.
The most well-known services and products are:
- Search engine
- Smartphone/tablet OS
- Computers, both laptop and desktop
- Digital collection of all the world’s books
- Map of the world
- Photographs of every street in the world
- Cloud storage and computing
- Productivity applications, including spreadsheet, word processing, and photo-editing
- Calendar software
- News aggregator
- Social network
- And so much more (read here)
This list does not include items being developed, such as the self-driving car. Nor does it include items already developed that didn’t have mainstream success, like Google Glass.
Given the average person uses a service at least once a day, if not more, for a variety of reasons, it’s surprising the company is not under fire like Facebook for privacy issues and data concerns.
Google and privacy
While Facebook has an immense amount of personal data, usually in the range of family and friend networks, Google’s algorithms read search history, locations, and until a few years ago could pick up keywords from email.
Despite the immense amount of data held on every single person, why hasn’t there been the fallout seen with Facebook?
To begin with, Google has shown itself responsive and quick to act on customer concerns and feedback. As mentioned above, the algorithms used to crawl Gmail looking for Adsense keywords.
Do not confuse this with Google reading emails.
Rather, Google’s Adwords and Adsense programs were looking for personal interests to tailor advertising to what a person wants to see, rather than guessing at demographics. Keep in mind, Adwords was Google’s second product after their search engine.
As soon as there was negative attention to the practice, Google halted the process.
Google has shown itself to be transparent and willing to make necessary changes for consumer comfort. While other tech giants have hidden their practice in tiny print and massive amounts of legal jargon, Google is upfront regarding what information is stored.
In fact, we can use the search engine to find out how to delete all the records Google holds on us. It’s an easy process.
But it’s also just as easy to let Google make our lives seamless and efficient. A consumer doesn’t need anything else for any technology service, whether personal or business.
And it’s likely the company knows this. Google’s transparency is not saying they will not sell your demographics and interests for personalized ad space. Nor are they saying we must actively give them permission to gather data on us. Using their search engine is permission.
What the tech giant is saying, though, is they can make our lives easier.
And they know small changes and transparency regarding the little things that bother us go a long way to allowing Google to become our one service for everything.