THIS year will mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of a company that has become synonymous with the internet.
Whether it’s answering that big sports question you’re talking about with your friends, looking for somewhere to eat, or making sure you’re spelling that word right... when people have problems they abide by the saying: “When in doubt, Google it.”
Google has entered everyday speak, which in itself tells you the impact it has had on our lives. All this started on September 7, 1998, when the company was founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Back in the day, Yahoo was the big player and had an opportunity to buy Google in 2002 for the grand sum of $1 million, but turned it down...
That is the equivalent of Blockbuster laughing at how no-one will ever think of using a service like Netflix.
From the first doodle, Google has grown to become for many people the main way they navigate and use the internet. From email to video to your smartphone, Google and Android impact on so many aspects of our daily lives.
Search Engine to Smartphone
From initially being a way people found information on the internet, Google grew and began to expand in October, 2000, when Google AdWords was first launched.
Revenue from this alone was $22.4 billion in 2016, which made of 84% of its total revenue.
Google have upped their game since they went public in August, 2004. Soon after, they added Gmail to their list of services (there are currently more than a billion active users) as well as Google Maps, that amazing tool we use every time we get lost in the middle of a city or in the countryside (signal dependant of course).
In November, 2006, they bought a video website known as YouTube for what seemed like a lot at the time, $1.65 billion. This has since proven to be a sound investment as YouTube is the No.1 way people consume video online (300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!).
In 2008, Google entered the then growing mobile marketing with Android OS. They are now a key part of the eternal debate among people: “Are you Android or iOS?”
These examples and the numbers behind them show just how quick Google has grown and how integral a part it now plays in our daily lives.
The Good and Bad of Google
Google has some huge benefits, but at the same time it has gotten itself in murky waters (a problem when you get as big as they have).
From a positive standpoint, just look at what you can do with your phone. Within a couple of taps you can find out the question to virtually any problem you have. Want to find the best Italian restaurant to get lunch? Google will tell you which one, where it is, its reviews, opening hours and contact details. Having a Gmail account alone gives you access to email, video, maps and the cloud — and all from one account.
Whether your needs are for business or just for downtime on the daily commute, Google can help you.
At the same time, though, by becoming such a big player Google has encountered some controversy, a lot of it centred around personal privacy and data protection.
With so much information flowing, there are risks that it can be compromised. In April, 2016, the EU filed an anti-trust complaint against Google for favouring their own services over that of competitors. This resulted in a $2.7 billion fine being levied against it.
Privacy continues to be a huge issue for Google as it recently emerged that Android devices still tracked people even when location services were turned off.
Documentaries such as Citizen 4, where Edward Snowden uncovered the extent of government surveillance, show how grey an area data protection and privacy still is.
So what about the next 20 years for Google?
In the modern era, even a corporation as large as Google has to follow the mantra: Adapt or die.
The company’s future is very much focused on features powered by Artificial Intelligence.
They intend on combining this with the mountain of data they have to enter new markets such as Google Home, which will let you play music, call friends and control your property, all by voice command (useful, but kind of eerie at the same time).
Voice search is another big area for Google. Instead of typing in a question, you merely ask Google directly. Voice is an area that is starting to build momentum and by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based.
The big players in the voice era are Siri for Apple, Alexa for Amazon and Google Voice Search.
Google should heed the lessons of Yahoo and Blockbuster, as what may seem small at the moment can explode overnight and change the business landscape.
Google and Ireland
From an Irish perspective, just like Microsoft and Dell, Google has been a huge player on the jobs front. Their European Headquarters are based in Dublin and they currently employ 2,800 staff and 2,000 contractors. They’re one of the largest employers in the country and have helped develop the image of Ireland as a place for hi-tech businesses to locate.
At the same time, there have been some issues similar to Apple when it comes to the construction of data centres.
On the whole, Google locating in Ireland has had some big benefits and the country looks set to play a key role in the future, especially with the tumultuous times of Brexit ahead of us.
A lot has happened since Google was founded 20 years ago. The internet and smartphones have both grown to become core areas for many people’s daily lives and Google is integral to each.
So the next time you’re going to ask a question or are heading for somewhere to have food, will you be using Google to answer it?