Google 25 years: from search favorite to abuse of power

Google is 25 years old. The search engine has grown into a powerful advertising giant that made $60 billion in profits last year alone, but is also under fire. Earlier this year, the European Commission again accused Google of abuse of power.

Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, PhD students at Stanford University in California. A third involved was Scott Hassan, the lead programmer who wrote much of the code for the original Google search engine, but who left before Google officially became a company.

While conventional search engines at the time ranked results by counting how many times certain search terms appeared on the page, Google came up with the PageRank. The algorithm determined the relevance of a website by looking at the number of references to a site. Both methods were equally susceptible to fraud.

Google was initially funded by Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim. It wasn’t until 2000 that Google started selling ads, something the two founders actually didn’t want at all at first.

Its scientific and non-commercial image was what initially made Google likeable. In June 2000, it was announced that Google would become the default search provider for Yahoo!, one of the most popular websites at the time, replacing Inktomi. It didn’t take long for the most popular search engine of the time to displace AltaVista from the top spot. After that, even Microsoft was no longer able to come close to Google with Bing.

On August 19, 2004, Google became a publicly traded company and it was Eric Schmidt (Sun Microsystems and Novell) who would determine Google’s commercial course. From that moment on, Google started to grow strongly. The two founders have faded into the background.

With sufficient cash in hand, all kinds of purchases could be made: Blogger as early as 2003, YouTube in 2006, navigation app Waze in 2023 and Android as early as 2005. The latter acquisition subsequently became the most important of all. The software of the same name now runs on the majority of smartphones. Largely for free, because here too advertising sales are the most important source of income.

Google launched hundreds of services over the years. Some like Gmail with great success. However, Google failed to rival Facebook with Google Plus. The curtain fell in 2019. Google Duo and Google Hangouts merged into Google Meet. Google Workspace, on the other hand, caught on and grew into an important (paid) alternative to Microsoft Office.

With Google Cloud, Google has become a major cloud player, but it has yet to acknowledge its superior in Amazon’s AWS. Alphabet made about $395 million with Google Cloud in the second quarter of 2023. However, that is not in proportion to the advertising revenue. The so-called Other Bets that fall under parent company Alphabet have also not yet led to substantial income.

Google itself did not reflect on its 25th anniversary on Tuesday. The company is facing considerable challenges. The European Commission has again accused Google of abuse of power. In her view, the tech giant is too dominant in the field of online advertising and the forced sale of a business unit should not be ruled out.

Source: Nieuws – Emerce by

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