Google celebrates its 25th anniversary! It has been a quarter of a century since the Mountain View company launched its search engine and laid the foundation stone for a whole host of innovations and services deeply anchored in our daily lives. Let’s review some important dates in the evolution of this web empire.
Every September 27, Google celebrates its birthday (although there is no proof that this is the exact date of creation). However, this year is very special, since it is the 25th anniversary. A quarter century ! Enormous longevity for a company that we should not see disappear from the digital landscape anytime soon. And for good reason, even if there are a plethora of ways to criticize – or even make fun of – certain strategies of this web giant, we must recognize that the company has established itself as an indestructible giant.
To do this, Google had to evolve and innovate. Starting from a search engine that displayed blue clickable links, the firm then moved on to Google Images, Chrome, Android, YouTube, Maps, Assistant, Photos, etc. Lately, we have also seen all the efforts of the multinational in the field of artificial intelligence, notably Google Bard which is progressing slowly, but surely. An AI also explicitly in the spotlight in the video below.
For the occasion, Google has drawn up a beautiful doodle tracing the evolution of its famous logo.
A logo that it seems impossible to miss as Google is present everywhere.
Some signs of Google’s strength
Certain signs are unmistakable and betray the omnipresence of Google in our lives. Three examples, in particular, illustrate this well. More precisely, these are some expressions that we no longer even realize: the periphrasis “ Mountain View firm “, the verb ” google » and the profession of YouTuber.
The press —CssTricksunderstood — uses and abuses the formula “Mountain View firm» to the point that the simple name of this city is now enough to evoke the Google campus, even for those who have never set foot there. However, several other large companies are also entitled to similar nicknames mentioning the location of their headquarters (e.g.: Apple and Cupertino).
This is why it is interesting to go a little further by looking at the verb “google”. It has been used for years to refer to the action of carrying out a search on the web. What better way to understand the impact of Google on our behavior? Few companies can boast of having given birth to such a popular and common word.
However, Google has managed to do this twice. In addition to “googling”, another word is regularly used, and this time it concerns a professional activity: YouTuber or YouTuber. Google owns YouTube, a video platform which has also profoundly changed our audiovisual content consumption habits. This is comparable to the transformations brought about by the growth of Twitch in recent years, but you will note that the term streamer is more common than that of “Twitcher”.
The history of Google in a few dates
In 2023, Google therefore weighs more than ever. And its 25th anniversary is a good opportunity to look back on some key dates.
The meeting in 1995
The two founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, then students, met at Stanford University in 1995 and then decided to work together from 1996 to launch a new search engine.
The beginnings in 1998 and the innovative search engine
The company Google Inc., created on September 4, 1998, if we trust this old version of an “About” page, set up its very first premises in a garage in Menlo Park. It is therefore possible that this is the event that we celebrate on September 27, but this is only a guess. Note that on this same page, we can read that the founders chose the name “Google” by playing on the mathematical term Gogol designating a 1 followed by 100 zeros. “This name reflects the immense volume of information that exists and the scope of Google’s mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.“.
Over the months that followed, the search engine acquired great notoriety. From January 1999,The worldpublishes an article entitled “Google takes on the Web“. The daily details Google’s recipe for success. The latter is not a simple directory like Yahoo could be. It goes further by emphasizing the relevance of each link. Google indeed scans the web and the more links there are that point to a site, the more this site is considered relevant and will move up in the search results.
For each file encountered on the Web, Google’s computers search their database for documents that point to it. With each citation, its relevance rating increases. “A document frequently cited as a reference is a priori more interesting than a document that no one has noticed,” suggests Sergey Brin. (Le Monde, 1999)
These are the roots of what we would later call SEO – Search Engine Optimization -, the set of techniques that allow a website to be well referenced on Google. Today, the algorithms have obviously become more complex and the challenges have only increased.
2000 – 2001: the growth and launch of Google Images
On May 9, 2000, the Google search engine became available in French, among other languages. The same year, a few months later, targeted advertising, based on the keywords of the searches carried out, made its debut.
Then, Google announced in 2001 that it had indexed 3 billion documents on the web. That same year, Google Images was also created, inspired by a dress worn by Jennifer Lopez which caused a sensation. The days when there were only blue links are over: make way for images!
From 2004: diversification (Gmail, Android, YouTube, Chrome, etc.)
The year 2004 saw the creation of Gmail, one of the most used email services in the world. In 2005, Google acquired the startup Android and therefore took charge of the development of the largest mobile OS to date. Shortly before, another acquisition led to the creation of Google Maps.
2006, it was the takeover of YouTube that made the headlines. In September 2008, the Google Chrome web browser took its first steps in beta and subsequently established itself as the market leader.
This trend towards diversification is an important element of Google’s image, which invests in numerous technologies and develops countless applications over time. The creation of this vast ecosystem of products and services plays a major role in the multinational’s position today. Wherever it can, Google uses intelligent search tools that showcase all of its know-how in this area.
Restructuring in 2015
The multinational restructured its activities in 2015 and Google became a subsidiary of the Alphabet group. Broadly speaking, this allows Google to concentrate on its main activities and to pass all the slightly crazier projects (robotics, autonomous cars, etc.) into the fold of its new parent company, whose founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page remains in control.
2016: Google Assistant and Pixel smartphones
Google Assistant saw the light of day in 2016 before really taking off in 2017, when it began to be deployed on certain eligible Android smartphones. Note that in the meantime, the first generation of Pixel smartphones was launched in 2016, marking Google’s return to this market.
2023: go all out on AI
In 2023, not to be overtaken by the success of ChatGPT, supported by Microsoft, Google is announcing a whole bunch of new products powered by artificial intelligence and, in particular, a conversational agent called Google Bard.
Despite a fairly turbulent start, Google firmly believes in Bard. The ultra-sophisticated AI is based on a promising in-house language model, PaLM 2. Bard recently learned to speak French and is gradually acquiring new features highlighting the entire Google ecosystem.
An empire criticized
This chronological evolution fairly well reflects the evolution that Google has undergone, going from an innovative search engine to a gigantic empire that weighs several billion dollars today. Unsurprisingly, the empire in question is often criticized and three things come up regularly.
- Fears expressed around the confidentiality of private data given all the information that Google processes and the fact that targeted advertising represents its main source of revenue.
- Frequent accusations of abuse of dominant position and various anti-competitive practices, particularly in the search engine and online commerce sectors. The record and staggering fine of 4.34 billion euros imposed by Europe, however, concerned Android.
- The plethora of promising but poorly managed projects by Google that ended up being killed. The two most prominent examples being Google Plus and Stadia, but they are far from the only ones.
Let us recall in passing that Google’s code of conduct included a famous phrase: “Don’t be evil» (“Don’t be evil” in French). However, the currency in question ended up disappearing in 2018.
And what’s next?
Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence. Sundar Pichai, the current boss of Google, published a press release to mark the firm’s 25th anniversary and the theme of AI is at the heart of his thoughts. “Making AI more useful for everyone and deploying it responsibly is the most important way we can fulfill our mission over the next ten years and beyond“, he says.
His vision obviously does not stop at the next ten years. He projects 25 years into the future, to 2048. At that moment, “if somewhere in the world a teenager looks at everything we’ve built with AI and shrugs their shoulders, we’ll know we succeeded. And we’ll get back to work“. It’s a way of promising that Google will always be as omnipresent in our lives without us even really paying attention to it.