History Of Google

Early history

Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2003

Google began in March 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Ph.D. students at Stanford[1] working on the Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP). The SDLP’s goal was “to develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library.” and was funded through the National Science Foundation among other federal agencies.[2][3][4][5] 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.[6] His supervisor Terry Winograd encouraged him to pick this idea (which Page later recalled as “the best advice I ever got”[7]) 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).[6] In his research project, nicknamed “BackRub”, he was soon joined by Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford Ph.D. student supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.[2] Brin was already a close friend, whom Page had first met in the summer of 1995 in a group of potential new students which Brin had volunteered to show around the campus.[6] 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.[6] 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.[6] 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).[6][8]

A small search engine called “RankDex” from IDD Information Services (a subsidiary of Dow Jones) designed by Robin Li was, since 1996, already exploring a similar strategy for site-scoring and page ranking.[9] The technology in RankDex would be patented [10] and used later when Li founded Baidu in China.[11][12]

Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant Web pages must be the most relevant pages associated with the search, Page and Brin tested their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. By early 1997, the backrub page described the state as follows:[13]

Some Rough Statistics (from August 29th, 1996)
Total indexable HTML urls: 75.2306 Million
Total content downloaded: 207.022 gigabytes

BackRub is written in Java and Python and runs on several Sun Ultras and Intel Pentiums running Linux. The primary database is kept on an Sun Ultra II with 28GB of disk. Scott Hassan and Alan Steremberg have provided a great deal of very talented implementation help. Sergey Brin has also been very involved and deserves many thanks.

-Larry Page page@cs.stanford.edu

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.

Both Brin and Page had been against using advertising pop-ups in a search engine, or an “advertising funded search engines” model, and they wrote a research paper in 1998 on the topic while still students. However, they soon changed their minds and early on allowed simple text ads.[14]

Google Home Page September 1998

By the end of 1998, Google had an index of about 60 million pages.[15] 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.[15]

In March 1999, the company moved into offices at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, home to several other noted Silicon Valley technology startups.[16] 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 2003.[17] 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 number that is equal to 1 followed by a googol of zeros). In 2006, Google bought the property from SGI for $319 million.[18]

The Google search engine attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users, who liked its simple design.[19] In 2000, Google began selling advertisements associated with search keywords.[1] The ads were text-based to maintain an uncluttered page design and to maximize page loading speed.[1] Keywords were sold based on a combination of price bid and click-throughs, with bidding starting at $.05 per click.[1] 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).[20][21][22] While many of its dot-com rivals failed in the new Internet marketplace, Google quietly rose in stature while generating revenue.[1]

Google’s declared code of conduct is “Don’t be evil“, a phrase which they went so far as to include in their prospectus (aka “S-1″) for their 2004 IPO, noting, “We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.”[23]

Financing and initial public offering

The first funding for Google as a company was secured on August 1998 in the form of a $100,000USD contribution from Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, given to a corporation which did not yet exist.[24]

On June 7, 1999, a round of equity funding totalling $25 million was announced;[25] the major investors being rival venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital.[24]

While Google still needed a lot of funding for their further expansion, Brin and Page were hesitant to take the company public even though that would basically solve most of their financial issues. They were not ready to give up their control over Google. After borrowing the $25 million venture capital money from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital, Sequoia forced Brin and Page to hire a CEO or else they would take back that borrowed $12.5 million. Finally, Brin and Page gave in and hired Eric Schmidt as Google’s first CEO in March 2001 and the company went public three years later.[26]

In October 2003, while discussing a possible initial public offering of shares (IPO), Microsoft approached the company about a possible partnership or merger.[27] However, no such deal ever materialized. In January 2004, Google announced the hiring of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to arrange an IPO. The IPO was projected to raise as much as $4 billion.

On April 29, 2004, Google made an S-1 form SEC filing for an IPO to raise as much as $2,718,281,828. This alludes to Google’s corporate culture with a touch of mathematical humor as e ≈ 2.718281828. April 29 was also the 120th day of 2004, and according to section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, “a company must file financial and other information with the SEC 120 days after the close of the year in which the company reaches $10 million in assets and/or 500 shareholders, including people with stock options.”[28] Google has stated in its annual filing for 2004 that every one of its 3,021 employees, “except temporary employees and contractors, are also equity holders, with significant collective employee ownership”, so Google would have needed to make its financial information public by filing them with the SEC regardless of whether or not they intended to make a public offering. As Google stated in the filing, their, “growth has reduced some of the advantages of private ownership. By law, certain private companies must report as if they were public companies. The deadline imposed by this requirement accelerated our decision.” The SEC filing revealed that Google turned a profit every year since 2001 and earned a profit of $105.6 million on revenues of $961.8 million during 2003.

In May 2004, Google officially cut Goldman Sachs from the IPO, leaving Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston as the joint underwriters. They chose the unconventional way of allocating the initial offering through an auction (specifically, a “Dutch auction“), so that “anyone” would be able to participate in the offering. The smallest required account balances at most authorized online brokers that are allowed to participate in an IPO, however, are around $100,000. In the run-up to the IPO the company was forced to slash the price and size of the offering, but the process did not run into any technical difficulties or result in any significant legal challenges. The initial offering of shares was sold for $85 a piece. The public valued it at $100.34 at the close of the first day of trading, which saw 22,351,900 shares change hands.

Google’s initial public offering took place on August 25, 2004. A total of 19,605,052 shares were offered at a price of $85 per share.[29] Of that, 14,142,135 (another mathematical reference as √2 ≈ 1.4142135) were floated by Google and 5,462,917 by selling stockholders. The sale raised US$1.67 billion, and gave Google a market capitalization of more than $23 billion.[30] The vast majority of Google’s 271 million shares remained under Google’s control. Many of Google’s employees became instant paper millionaires. Yahoo!, a competitor of Google, also benefited from the IPO because it owns 2.7 million shares of Google.[31]

The company is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol GOOG.

Growth

The first iteration of Google production servers was built with inexpensive hardware and was designed to be very fault-tolerant

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% 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).

the relationship between Google, Baidu, and Yahoo

After the IPO, Google’s stock market capitalization rose greatly and the stock price more than quadrupled. On August 19, 2004 the number of shares outstanding was 172.85 million while the “free float” was 19.60 million (which makes 89% held by insiders). In January 2005 the number of shares outstanding was up 100 million to 273.42 million, 53% of that was held by insiders, which made the float 127.70 million (up 110 million shares from the first trading day). The two founders are said to hold almost 30% of the outstanding shares. The actual voting power of the insiders is much higher, however, as Google has a dual class stock structure in which each Class B share gets ten votes compared to each Class A share getting one. Page says in the prospectus that Google has, “a dual class structure that is biased toward stability and independence and that requires investors to bet on the team, especially Sergey and me.” The company has not reported any treasury stock holdings as of the Q3 2004 report.

On June 1, 2005, Google shares gained nearly four percent after Credit Suisse First Boston raised its price target on the stock to $350. On that same day, rumors circulated in the financial community that Google would soon be included in the S&P 500.[32] When companies are first listed on the S&P 500 they typically experience a bump in share price due to the rapid accumulation of the stock within index funds that track the S&P 500. The rumors, however, were premature and Google was not added to the S&P 500 until 2006. Nevertheless, on June 7, 2005, Google was valued at nearly $52 billion, making it one of the world’s biggest media companies by stock market value.

On August 18, 2005 (one year after the initial IPO), Google announced that it would sell 14,159,265 (another mathematical reference as π ≈ 3.14159265) more shares of its stock to raise money. The move would double Google’s cash stockpile to $7 billion. Google said it would use the money for “acquisitions of complementary businesses, technologies or other assets”.[33]

On September 28, 2005, Google announced a long-term research partnership with NASA which would involve Google building a 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) R&D center at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and on December 31, 2005 Time Warner‘s AOL unit and Google unveiled an expanded partnership—see Partnerships below.

Additionally in 2005, Google formed a partnership with Sun Microsystems to help share and distribute each other’s technologies. As part of the partnership Google will hire employees to help in the open source office program OpenOffice.org.[34]

With Google’s increased size comes more competition from large mainstream technology companies. One such example is the rivalry between Microsoft and Google.[35] Microsoft has been touting its Bing search engine to counter Google’s competitive position. Furthermore, the two companies are increasingly offering overlapping services, such as webmail (Gmail vs. Hotmail), search (both online and local desktop searching), and other applications (for example, Microsoft’s Windows Live Local competes with Google Earth). In addition to an Internet Explorer replacement Google is designing its own Linux-based operating system called Chrome OS to directly compete with Microsoft Windows. There were also rumors of a Google web browser, fueled much by the fact that Google is the owner of the domain name “gbrowser.com”. These were later proven when Google released Google Chrome. This corporate feud is most directly expressed in hiring offers and defections. Many Microsoft employees who worked on Internet Explorer have left to work for Google. This feud boiled over into the courts when Kai-Fu Lee, a former vice-president of Microsoft, quit Microsoft to work for Google. Microsoft sued to stop his move by citing Lee’s non-compete contract (he had access to much sensitive information regarding Microsoft’s plans in China).

Google and Microsoft reached a settlement out of court on December 22, 2005, the terms of which are confidential.[36]

Click fraud has also become a growing problem for Google’s business strategy. Google’s CFO George Reyes said in a December 2004 investor conference that “something has to be done about this really, really quickly, because I think, potentially, it threatens our business model.”[37] Some have suggested that Google is not doing enough to combat click fraud. Jessie Stricchiola, president of Alchemist Media, called Google, “the most stubborn and the least willing to cooperate with advertisers”, when it comes to click fraud.

While the company’s primary market is in the web content arena, Google has also recently began to experiment with other markets, such as radio and print publications. On January 17, 2006, Google announced that it had purchased the radio advertising company dMarc, which provides an automated system that allows companies to advertise on the radio.[38] This will allow Google to combine two advertising media—the Internet and radio—with Google’s ability to laser-focus on the tastes of consumers. Google has also begun an experiment in selling advertisements from its advertisers in offline newspapers and magazines, with select advertisements in the Chicago Sun-Times.[39] They have been filling unsold space in the newspaper that would have normally been used for in-house advertisements.

During the third quarter 2005 Google Conference Call, Eric Schmidt said, “We don’t do the same thing as everyone else does. And so if you try to predict our product strategy by simply saying well so and so has this and Google will do the same thing, it’s almost always the wrong answer. We look at markets as they exist and we assume they are pretty well served by their existing players. We try to see new problems and new markets using the technology that others use and we build.”

After months of speculation, Google was added to the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P 500) on March 31, 2006.[40] Google replaced Burlington Resources, a major oil producer based in Houston that had been acquired by ConocoPhillips.[41] The day after the announcement Google’s share price rose by 7%.[42]

Over the course of the past decade, Google has become quite well known for its corporate culture and innovative, clean products, and has had a major impact on online culture.

Name

The name “Google” originated from a misspelling of “googol,”[43][44] which refers to the number represented by a 1 followed by one-hundred zeros. Page and Brin write in their original paper on PageRank [45]: “We chose our systems name, Google, because it is a common spelling of googol, or 10100 and fits well with our goal of building very large-scale search engines.”

However, Enid Blyton used the phrase “Google Bun” in The Magic Faraway Tree (published 1941) The Folk of the Faraway Tree (published 1946),[46] and called a clown character “Google” in Circus Days Again (published 1942),[47] and there is also the Googleplex Star Thinker from Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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.”[48][49] The use of the term itself reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.[44] In November 2009, the Global Language Monitor named “Google” No. 7 on its Top Words of the Decade list.[50] In December 2009 the BBC highlighted Google in their “Portrait of the Decade (Words)” series.[51]

Philanthropy

In 2004, Google formed a non-profit philanthropic wing, Google.org, giving it a starting fund of $1 billion.[52] The express mission of the organization is to help with the issues of climate change (see also global warming), global public health, and global poverty. Among its first projects is to develop a viable plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that can attain 100 mpg.[53]

Acquisitions

Since 2001, Google has acquired several small companies, often consisting of innovative teams and products. One of the earlier companies that Google bought was Pyra Labs. They were the creators of Blogger, a weblog publishing platform, first launched in 1999. This acquisition led to many premium features becoming free. Pyra Labs was originally formed by Evan Williams, yet he left Google in 2004. In early 2006, Google acquired Upstartle, a company responsible for the online collaborative word processor, Writely. The technology in this product was combined with Google Spreadsheets to become Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

The logo of YouTube, which in late 2006 was acquired by Google.

On October 9, 2006, Google announced that it would buy the popular online video site YouTube for $1.65 billion.[54] The brand, YouTube, will continue to exist, and will not merge with Google Video. Meanwhile, Google Video signed an agreement with Sony BMG Music Entertainment and the Warner Music Group, for both companies to deliver music videos to the site.[55] The deal was finalized by November 13.[56]

On October 31, 2006, Google announced that it had purchased JotSpot, a company that helped pioneer the market for collaborative, web-based business software to bolster its position in the online document arena.[57]

On March 17, 2007, Google announced its acquisition of two more companies. The first is Gapminder‘s Trendalyzer software, a company that specializes in developing information technology for provision of free statistics in new visual and animated ways[58] On the same day, Google also announced its acquisition of Adscape Media, a small in-game advertising company based in San Francisco, California.[59]

Google also acquired PeakStream Technologies.

Partnerships

Google has worked with several corporations, in order to improve production and services. On September 28, 2005,Google announced a long-term research partnership with NASA which would involve Google building a 1,000,000-square-foot (93,000 m2) R&D center at NASA’s Ames Research Center. NASA and Google are planning to work together on a variety of areas, including large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry. The new building would also include labs, offices, and housing for Google engineers.[60] In October 2006, Google formed a partnership with Sun Microsystems to help share and distribute each other’s technologies. As part of the partnership Google will hire employees to help the open source office program OpenOffice.org.[34]

Time Warner‘s AOL unit and Google unveiled an expanded partnership on December 21, 2005, including an enhanced global advertising partnership and a $1 billion investment by Google for a 5% stake in AOL.[61] As part of the collaboration, Google plans to work with AOL on video search and offer AOL’s premium-video service within Google Video. This did not allow users of Google Video to search for AOL’s premium-video services. Display advertising throughout the Google network will also increase.

In August 2003, Google signed a $900 million offer with News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media unit to provide search and advertising on MySpace and other News Corp. websites including IGN, AmericanIdol.com, Fox.com, and Rotten Tomatoes, although Fox Sports is not included as a deal already exists between News Corp. and MSN.[62][63]

On December 6, 2006, British Sky Broadcasting released details of a Sky and Google alliance.[64] This includes a feature where Gmail will link with Sky and host a mail service for Sky, incorporating the email domain “@sky.com”.

In 2007, Google displaced America Online as a key partner and sponsor of the NORAD Tracks Santa program.[65][66][67] Google Earth was used for the first time to give visitors to the website the impression that they were following Santa Claus‘ progress in 3-D.[68] The program also made its presence known on YouTube in 2007 as part of its partnership with Google.[69]

In January 2009, Google announced a partnership with the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, allowing the Pope to have his own channel on YouTube.[70]

New mobile top-level domain

In coordination with several of the major corporations, including Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson, Google provided financial support in the launch of the .mobi top level domain created specifically for the mobile internet, stating that it is supporting the new domain extension to help set the standards that will define the future of mobile content and improve the experience of Google users.[71] In early 2006, Google launched Google.mobi, a mobile search portal offering several Google mobile products, including stripped-down versions of its applications and services for mobile users.[72] On September 17, 2007, Google launched, “Adsense for Mobile”, a service to its publishing partners providing the ability to monetize their mobile websites through the targeted placement of mobile text ads.[73] Also in September, Google acquired the mobile social networking site, Zingku.mobi to “provide people worldwide with direct access to Google applications, and ultimately the information they want and need, right from their mobile devices.”[74]

Legal battles

Gonzales v. Google

On Wednesday, January 18, 2006, the U.S. Justice Department filed a motion to compel in United States district court in San Jose seeking a court order that would compel search engine company Google Inc. to turn over, “a multi-stage random sample of one million URL’s“, from Google’s database, and a computer file with, “the text of each search string entered onto Google’s search engine over a one-week period (absent any information identifying the person who entered such query).”[75] Google maintains that their policy has always been to assure its users’ privacy and anonymity, and challenged the subpoena. On March 18, 2006, a federal judge ruled that while Google must surrender 50,000 random URLs, the Department of Justice did not meet the necessary burden to force Google to disclose any search terms entered by its users.

Bedrock Computer Technologies, LLC vs. Google, Inc

A jury in Texas awarded Bedrock Computer Technologies $5 million in a patent lawsuit against Google.[76][77] The patent allegedly covered use of hash tables with garbage collection and external chaining in the Red Hat Linux kernel. The judgment was later vacated by the court.[78]

See also

References

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  68. ^ “Behind the scenes: NORAD’s Santa tracker for Thur, Dec 21, 2009 By Daniel Terdiman, CNET”. CNET. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  69. ^ “Instructions On Tracking Santa With NORAD & Google: The 2007 Edition, Dec 24, 2007, Danny Sullivan”. Search Engine Land. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  70. ^ Krause, Flavia. (January 23, 2009) Pope Benedict Debuts on YouTube to Reach Out to Catholics. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved on May 29, 2011.
  71. ^dotMobi Investors.” .mobi. Retrieved on October 14, 2007.
  72. ^ Vencat, Emily Flynn. “Gadgets: The Mobile Web.” MSNBC. July 17, 2006. Retrieved on October 14, 2007.
  73. ^Google AdSense for Mobile unlocks the potential of the mobile advertising market.” Google. September 17, 2007. Retrieved on October 14, 2007.
  74. ^ Niccolai, James. “Google Buy Mobile Social Network Zingku.” PC World. September 29, 2007. Retrieved on October 14, 2007.
  75. ^ Gonzales v. Google, Inc. January 18, 2006.
  76. ^ Idiotic Anti-Linux & Google Patent Decision. ZDNet. Retrieved on May 29, 2011.
  77. ^ / Media – Google loses Linux patent lawsuit. Ft.com (April 23, 2011). Retrieved on May 29, 2011.
  78. ^ ORDER granting 829 Stipulation of Dismissal.

Google history

Google timeline

Check out the interactive version of our company history.

Our company has packed a lot in to a relatively young life.

We’ve captured some of the key milestones in Google’s development.

1995-1997 · 1998 · 1999 · 2000 · 2001 · 2002 · 2003 · 2004 · 2005 · 2006 · 2007 · 2008 · 2009 · 2010 · 2011 · 2012

1995-1997

1995

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin meet at Stanford. (Larry, 22, a U Michigan grad, is considering the school; Sergey, 21, is assigned to show him around.) According to some accounts, they disagree about almost everything during this first meeting.

1996

  • Larry and Sergey, now Stanford computer science grad students, begin collaborating on a search engine called BackRub.
  • BackRub operates on Stanford servers for more than a year—eventually taking up too much bandwidth to suit the university.

1997

  • Larry and Sergey decide that the BackRub search engine needs a new name. After some brainstorming, they go with Google—a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.

Back to top

1998

August

  • Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim writes a check for $100,000 to an entity that doesn’t exist yet: a company called Google Inc.

September

  • Google sets up workspace in Susan Wojcicki’s garage at 232 Santa Margarita, Menlo Park.
  • Google files for incorporation in California on September 4. Shortly thereafter, Larry and Sergey open a bank account in the newly-established company’s name and deposit Andy Bechtolsheim’s check.
  • Larry and Sergey hire Craig Silverstein as their first employee; he’s a fellow computer science grad student at Stanford.

December

  • “PC Magazine” reports that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results” and recognizes us as the search engine of choice in the Top 100 Web Sites for 1998.

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1999

February

  • We outgrow our garage office and move to new digs at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto with just eight employees.

April

May

  • Omid Kordestani joins to run sales—the first non-engineering hire.

June

  • Our first press release announces a $25 million round from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins; John Doerr and Michael Moritz join the board. The release quotes Moritz describing “Googlers” as ”people who use Google”.

August

  • We move to our first Mountain View location: 2400 E. Bayshore. Mountain View is a few miles south of Stanford University, and north of the older towns of Silicon Valley: Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose.

November

  • Charlie Ayers joins as Google’s first chef. He wins the job in a cook-off judged by the company’s 40 employees. Previous claim to fame: catering for the Grateful Dead.

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2000

April

  • On April Fools’ Day, we announce the MentalPlex: Google’s ability to read your mind as you visualize the search results you want. Thus begins our annual foray in the Silicon Valley tradition of April 1 hoaxes.

May

  • The first 10 language versions of Google.com are released: French, German, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Norwegian and Danish.
  • We win our first Webby Awards: Technical Achievement (voted by judges) and Peoples’ Voice (voted by users).

June

September

  • We start offering search in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, bringing our total number of supported languages to 15.

October

  • Google AdWords launches with 350 customers. The self-service ad program promises online activation with a credit card, keyword targeting and performance feedback.

December

  • Google Toolbar is released. It’s a browser plug-in that makes it possible to search without visiting the Google homepage.

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2001

January

  • We announce the hire of Silicon Valley veteran Wayne Rosing as our first VP of engineering operations.

February

  • Our first public acquisition: Deja.com’s Usenet Discussion Service, an archive of 500 million Usenet discussions dating back to 1995. We add search and browse features and launch it as Google Groups.

March

April

July

  • Image Search launches, offering access to 250 million images.

August

  • We open our first international office, in Tokyo.
  • Eric Schmidt becomes our CEO. Larry and Sergey are named presidents of products and technology, respectively.

October

December

Back to top

2002

February

  • Klingon becomes one of 72 language interfaces.
  • The first Google hardware is released: it’s a yellow box called the Google Search Appliance that businesses can plug into their computer network to enable search capabilities for their own documents.
  • We release a major overhaul for AdWords, including new cost-per-click pricing.

April

  • For April Fools’ Day, we announce that pigeons power our search results.
  • We release a set of APIs, enabling developers to query more than 2 billion web documents and program in their favorite environment, including Java, Perl and Visual Studio.

May

  • We announce a major partnership with AOL to offer Google search and sponsored links to 34 million customers using CompuServe, Netscape and AOL.com.
  • We release Google Labs, a place to try out beta technologies fresh from our R&D team.

September

October

  • We open our first Australian office in Sydney.

December

Back to top

2003

January

  • American Dialect Society members vote “google” the “most useful” Word of the Year for 2002.

February

March

  • We announce a new content-targeted advertising service, enabling publishers large and small to access Google’s vast network of advertisers. (Weeks later, on April 23, we acquire Applied Semantics, whose technology bolsters the service named AdSense.)

April

  • We launch Google Grants, our in-kind advertising program for nonprofit organizations to run in-kind ad campaigns for their cause.

October

  • Registration opens for programmers to compete for cash prizes and recognition at our first-ever Code Jam. Coders can work in Java, C++, C# or VB.NET.

December

Back to top

2004

January

  • orkut launches as a way for us to tap into the sphere of social networking.

February

  • Larry Page is inducted into the National Academy of Engineering.
  • Our search index hits a new milestone: 6 billion items, including 4.28 billion web pages and 880 million images.

March

  • We move to our new “Googleplex” at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, giving 800+ employees a campus environment.
  • We formalize our enterprise unit with the hire of Dave Girouard as general manager; reporters begin reporting in April about our vision for the enterprise search business.
  • We introduce Google Local, offering relevant neighborhood business listings, maps and directions. (Later, Local is combined with Google Maps.)

April

  • For April Fools’ we announce plans to open the Googlunaplex, a new research facility on the Moon.

May

  • We announce the first winners of the Google Anita Borg Scholarship, awarded to outstanding women studying computer science. Today these scholarships are open to students in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe.

August

  • Our Initial Public Offering of 19,605,052 shares of Class A common stock takes place on Wall Street on August 18. Opening price: $85 per share.

September

  • There are more than 100 Google domains (Norway and Kenya are #102 and #103). The list has since grown to more than 150.

October

  • We formally open our office in Dublin, Ireland, with 150 multilingual Googlers, a visit from Sergey and Larry, and recognition from the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, Mary Harney.
  • Google SMS (short message service) launches; send your text search queries to GOOGLE or 466453 on your mobile device.
  • Larry and Sergey are named Fellows by the Marconi Society, which recognizes “lasting scientific contributions to human progress in the field of communications science and the Internet.”
  • We spotlight our new engineering offices in Bangalore and Hyderabad, India with a visit from Sergey and Larry.
  • Google Desktop Search is introduced: You can now search for files and documents stored on your hard drive using Google technology.
  • We launch the beta version of Google Scholar, a free service for searching scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports.
  • We acquire Keyhole, a digital mapping company whose technology will later become Google Earth.

November

December

  • We open our Tokyo R&D (research & development) center to attract the best and brightest among Japanese and other Asian engineers.
  • The Google Print Program (since renamed Google Book Search) expands through digital scanning partnerships with the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, University of Michigan and Oxford as well as the New York Public Library.

Back to top

2005

February

March

  • We launch code.google.com, a new place for developer-oriented resources, including all of our APIs.
  • Some 14,000 programmers from six countries compete for cash prizes and recognition at our first coding competition in India, with top scores going to Ardian Kristanto Poernomo of Singapore.
  • We acquire Urchin, a web analytics company whose technology is used to create Google Analytics.

April

May

June

  • We hold our first Summer of Code, a 3-month $2 million program that aims to help computer science students contribute to open source software development.
  • Google Mobile Web Search is released, specially formulated for viewing search results on mobile phones.
  • We unveil Google Earth: a satellite imagery-based mapping service combining 3D buildings and terrain with mapping capabilities and Google search.
  • We release Personalized Search in Labs: over time, your (opt-in) search history will closely reflect your interests.
  • API for Maps released; developers can embed Google Maps on many kinds of mapping services and sites.

August

  • Google scores well in the U.S. government’s 2005 machine translation evaluation. (We’ve done so in subsequent years as well.)
  • We launch Google Talk, a downloadable Windows application that enables you to talk or IM with friends quickly and easily, as well as talk using a computer microphone and speaker (no phone required) for free.

September

  • Overlays in Google Earth illuminate the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina around New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Some rescue teams use these tools to locate stranded victims.
  • DARPA veteran Vint Cerf joins Google to carry on his quest for a global open Internet.
  • Dr. Kai-Fu Lee begins work at our new Research and Development Center in China.
  • Google Blog Search goes live; it’s the way to find current and relevant blog postings on particular topics throughout the enormous blogosphere.

October

  • Feed aficionados rejoice as Google Reader, a feed reader, is introduced at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.
  • Googlers volunteer to produce the first Mountain View book event with Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink” and “The Tipping Point.” Since then, the Authors@Google program has hosted more than 480 authors in 12 offices across the U.S., Europe and India.

November

  • We release Google Analytics, formerly known as Urchin, for measuring the impact of websites and marketing campaigns.
  • We announce the opening of our first offices in São Paulo and Mexico City.

December

Back to top

2006

January

February

March

  • We announce the acquisition of Writely, a web-based word processing application that subsequently becomes the basis for Google Docs.
  • A team working from Mountain View, Bangalore and New York collaborates to create Google Finance, our approach to an improved search experience for financial information.

April

  • For April Fools’ we unveil a new product, Google Romance: “Dating is a search problem.”
  • We launch Google Calendar, complete with sharing and group features.
  • We release Maps for France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

May

  • We release Google Trends, a way to visualize the popularity of searches over time.

June

July

  • At Google Code Jam Europe, nearly 10,000 programmers from 31 countries compete at Google Dublin for the top prizes; Tomasz Czajka from Poland wins the final round.

August

September

October

November

  • The first nationwide Doodle 4 Google contest in the U.K. takes place with the theme My Britain. More than 15,000 kids in Britain enter, and 13-year old Katherine Chisnall is chosen to have her doodle displayed on www.google.co.uk. There have been Doodle 4 Google contests in several other years and countries since.

December

Back to top

2007

January

  • We announce a partnership with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile telecom carrier, to provide mobile and Internet search services in China.

February

  • We release Google Maps in Australia, complete with local business results and mobile capability.
  • Google Docs & Spreadsheets is available in eleven more languages: French, Italian, German, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, Turkish, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese (Brazil) and Russian.
  • For Valentine’s Day, we open up Gmail to everyone. (Previously, it was available by invitation only.)
  • Google Apps Premier Edition launches, bringing cloud computing to businesses.
  • The Candidates@Google series kicks off with Senator Hillary Clinton, the first of several 2008 Presidential candidates, including Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, to visit the Googleplex.
  • We introduce traffic information to Google Maps for more than 30 cities around the U.S.

March

April

May

  • In partnership with the Growing Connection, we plant a vegetable garden in the middle of the Googleplex, the output of which is incorporated into our café offerings.
  • We move into permanent space in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Governor Jennifer Granholm helps us celebrate. The office is an AdWords support site.
  • At our Searchology event, we announce new strides taken towards universal search. Now video, news, books, image and local results are all integrated together in one search result.
  • Google Hot Trends launches, listing the current 100 most active queries, showing what people are searching for at the moment.
  • Street View debuts in Google Maps in five U.S. cities: New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver.
  • On Developer Day, we announce Google Gears (now known just as Gears), an open source technology for creating offline web applications.

June

July

August

September

  • AdSense for Mobile is introduced, giving sites optimized for mobile browsers the ability to host the same ads as standard websites.
  • Together with the X PRIZE Foundation we announce the Google Lunar X PRIZE, a robotic race to the Moon for a $30 million prize purse.
  • We add Presently, a new application for making slide presentations, to Google Docs.
  • Google Reader becomes available in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, English (U.K.), Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Japanese and Korean.

October

  • We partner with IBM on a supercomputing initiative so that students can learn to work at Internet scale on computing challenges.

November

  • We announce OpenSocial, a set of common APIs for developers to build applications for social networks.
  • Android, the first open platform for mobile devices, and a collaboration with other companies in the Open Handset Alliance, is announced. Soon after, we introduce the $10 million Android Developer Challenge.
  • Google.org announces RE<C, an initiative designed to create electricity from renewable sources that are cheaper than coal. The initial focus is on support for solar thermal power and wind power technologies.

December

  • The Queen of England launches The Royal Channel on YouTube. She is the first monarch to establish a video presence this way.

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2008

January

  • Google.org announces five key initiatives: in addition to the previously-announced RE<C and RechargeIT, there is a new dedication to solutions that can predict and prevent crises worldwide, improve public services and fuel the growth of small enterprises.
  • We bid in the 700 MHz spectrum auction to ensure that a more open wireless world becomes available to consumers.

February

  • For people searching in Hebrew, Arabic, or other right-to-left languages, we introduce a feature aimed at making searches easier by detecting the direction of a query.
  • Google Sites, a revamp of the acquisition JotSpot, debuts. Sites enables you to create collaborative websites with embedded videos, documents and calendars.

March

April

  • We feature 16 April Fools’ jokes from our offices around the world, including the new airline announced with Sir Richard Branson (Virgle), AdSense for Conversations, a Manpower Search (China) and the Google Wake-Up Kit. Bonus foolishness: all viewers linking to YouTube-featured videos are “Rickrolled.”
  • A new version of Google Earth launches, incorporating Street View and 12 more languages. At the same time, KML 2.2, which began as the Google Earth file format, is accepted as an official Open Geospacial Consortium standard.
  • Google Website Optimizer comes out of beta, expanding from an AdWords-only product. It’s a free website-testing tool with which site owners can continually test different combinations of their website content (such as images and text), to see which ones yield the most sales, sign-ups, leads or other goals.
  • We launch Google Finance China allowing Chinese investors to get stock and mutual fund data as a result of this collaboration between our New York and Shanghai teams.
  • We introduce a collection of 70+ new themes (“skins”) for iGoogle, contributed by such artists and designers as Dale Chihuly, Oscar de la Renta, Kwon Ki-Soo and Philippe Starck.

May

  • Following both the Sichuan earthquake in China and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma), Google Earth adds new satellite information for the region(s) to help recovery efforts.
  • Reflecting our commitment to searchers worldwide, Google search now supports Unicode 5.1.
  • At a developer event, we preview Google FriendConnect, a set of functions and applications enabling website owners to easily make their sites social by adding registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting and reviews, plus applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.
  • With IPv4 addresses (the numbers that computers use to connect to the Internet) running low, Google search becomes available over IPv6, a new IP address space large enough to assign almost three billion networks to every person on the planet. Vint Cerf is a key proponent of broad and immediate adoption of IPv6.
  • Google Translate adds 10 more languages (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Swedish), bringing the total to 23.
  • We release Google Health to the public, allowing people to safely and securely collect, store and manage their medical records and health information online.
  • We introduce a series of blog posts detailing the many aspects of good search results on the Official Google Blog.
  • California 6th grader Grace Moon wins the U.S. 2008 Doodle 4 Google competition for her doodle “Up In The Clouds.”

June

  • Real-time stock quotes go live on Google Finance for the first time.
  • With the launch of Google Site Search, site owners can enable Google-powered searches on their own websites.
  • We launch Gmail Labs, a set of experimental Gmail features, including saved searches and different kinds of stars, which let you customize your Gmail experience.
  • A new version of Maps for Mobile debuts, putting Google Transit directions on phones in more than 50 cities worldwide.
  • For the first time, Google engineers create the problems for contestants to solve at the 7th Annual Code Jam competition.

July

August

  • Street View is available in several cities in Japan and Australia—the first time it’s appeared outside of North America or Europe.
  • Google Suggest feature arrives on Google.com, helping formulate queries, reduce spelling errors and reduce keystrokes.
  • Just in time for the U.S. political conventions, we launch a site dedicated to the 2008 U.S. elections, with news, video and photos as well as tools for teachers and campaigners.

September

  • Word gets out about Chrome a bit ahead of schedule when the comic book that introduces our new open source browser is released earlier than planned on September 1. The browser officially becomes available for worldwide download a day later.
  • We get involved with the U.S. political process at the presidential nominating conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties.
  • We release an upgrade for Picasa, including new editing tools, a movie maker and easier syncing with the web. At the same time, Picasa Web Albums is updated with a new feature allowing you to ”name tag” people in photos.
  • Google News Archive helps to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives.
  • T-Mobile announces the G1, the first phone built on the Android operating system. At the same time, we release a new Android Software Developer Kit, and the Open Handset Alliance announces its intention to open source the entire Android platform by the end of 2008. The G1 becomes available for purchase in October.
  • We launch Transit for the New York metro region, making public transit information easily available for users of the largest transportation agency in the U.S.
  • Thanks to all of you, Google celebrates 10 fast-paced years.

October

  • We release the first draft of Clean Energy 2030, a proposal to wean the U.S. off of coal and oil for electricity use and to reduce oil use by cars 40 percent by 2030. The plan could generate billions in savings as well as millions of “green jobs.”
  • We introduce Google Earth for the iPhone and iPod touch, complete with photos, geo-located Wikipedia articles and the ability to tilt your phone to view 3D terrain.
  • Googlers in Mountain View build a zip line to travel across the small Permanente Creek separating a few of our buildings.

November

  • In a vote by 5-0, the FCC formally agrees to open up “white spaces,” or unused television spectrum, for wireless broadband service. We see this decision as a clear victory for Internet users and anyone who wants good wireless communications.
  • After we discover a correlation between certain search queries and CDC data on flu symptoms, we release Google Flu Trends, an indicator of flu activity around the U.S. as much as two weeks earlier than traditional flu surveillance systems.
  • We announce the availability of the LIFE photo archive in Google Image Search. Only a fraction of the approximately 10 million photos have ever been seen before.
  • SearchWiki launches, a way for you to customize your own search experience by re-ranking, deleting, adding and commenting on search results. Comments can also be read by other users.

December

  • We invite musicians around the globe to audition to participate in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, the world’s first collaborative online orchestra.
  • Google Friend Connect is available to any webmaster looking to easily integrate social features into their site.
  • Street View coverage more than doubles in the United States, including several states never before seen on Street View (Maine, West Virginia, North Dakota and South Dakota).
  • We partner with publishers to digitize millions of magazine articles and make them readily available on Google Book Search.

Back to top

2009

January

  • We kick off January with the launch of Picasa for Mac at Macworld.
  • The Vatican launches a YouTube Channel, providing updates from the Pope and Catholic Church.
  • Together with the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium and academic researchers, we announce Measurement Lab (M-Lab), an open platform that provides tools to test broadband connections.

February

  • The latest version of Google Earth makes a splash with Ocean, a new feature that provides a 3D look at the ocean floor and information about one of the world’s greatest natural resources.
  • We introduce Google Latitude, a Google Maps for mobile feature and an iGoogle gadget that lets you share your location with friends and see the approximate location of people who have decided to share their location with you.
  • After adding Turkish, Thai, Hungarian, Estonian, Albanian, Maltese and Galician, Google Translate is capable of automatic translation between 41 languages, covering 98 percent of the languages read by Internet users.
  • Our first message on Twitter gets back to binary: I’m 01100110 01100101 01100101 01101100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01101100 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 00001010. (Hint: it’s a button on our homepage.)

March

  • We launch a beta test of interest-based advertising on partner sites and on YouTube. This kind of tailored advertising lets us show ads more closely related to what people are searching for, and it gives advertisers an efficient way to reach those who are most interested in their products or services.
  • We release Google Voice to existing Grand Central users. The new application improves the way you use your phone, with features like voicemail transcription and archive and search of all of your SMS text messages.
  • We celebrate our San Francisco office’s Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. We see it as a sign that we’re on track with our approach to building environmentally friendly offices.
  • The White House holds an online town hall to answer citizens’ questions submitted on Google Moderator.
  • We launch new iGoogle backdrops inspired by video games, including classics like “Mario,” “Zelda” and “Donkey Kong.”
  • We announce Google Ventures: a venture capital fund aimed at using our resources to support innovation and encourage promising new technology companies.
  • Using our transliteration technology, we build and release a feature in Gmail that makes it easy to type messages in Indian languages like Hindi or Malayalam.
  • Google Suggest goes local with keyword suggestions for 51 languages in 155 domains.

April

  • Our April Fools’ Day prank this year is CADIE, our “Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity” who spends the day taking over various Google products before self-destructing.
  • We announce an update to search which enables people to get localized results even if they don’t include a location in their search query.
  • For India’s 15th general election, we launch the Google India Elections Centre, where people can check to see if they’re registered to vote, find their polling place, as well as read news and other information.
  • Over 90 musicians from around the world—including a Spanish guitarist, a Dutch harpist and a Lithuanian birbyne player—perform in the first-ever YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
  • We rebuild and redesign Google Labs as well as release two new Labs: Similar Image search and Google News Timeline. Later in the month, we introduce Toolbar Labs.
  • We begin to show Google profile results at the bottom of U.S. search pages when people search for names, giving people more control over what others find about them when they search on Google.
  • We release 11 short films about Google Chrome made by Christoph Niemann, Motion Theory, Steve Mottershead, Go Robot, Open, Default Office, Hunter Gatherer, Lifelong Friendship Society, SuperFad, Jeff&Paul and Pantograph.

May

  • To clear brush and reduce fire hazard in the fields near our Mountain View headquarters, we rent some goats from a local company. They help us trim the grass the low-carbon way!
  • At our second Searchology event, we introduce a few new search features, including the Search Options panel and rich snippets in search results.
  • We launch Sky Map for Android, which uses your Android phone to help you identify stars, constellations and planets.
  • Christin Engelberth, a sixth grader at Bernard Harris Middle School in San Antonio, Texas, wins the second U.S. Doodle 4 Google competition with her doodle “A new beginning.”
  • At our second annual Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, we preview Google Wave, a new communication and collaboration tool.

June

  • We add a new dashboard to Google Places which gives business owners information, such as what people searched for to see their listing or how many times their listing appeared in search results, about how customers find their businesses in Google Maps.
  • We introduce two new ways to customize your iGoogle page: the iGoogle Showcase, which lets you see your favorite celebrities’ homepages look like and add gadgets and more from those pages to your own, and nature themes.
  • Google Squared, a new experiment in Labs intended for certain kinds of complex search queries, collects facts from the web and presents them in an organized collection, similar to a spreadsheet.
  • The Google Translator Toolkit is a new set of editing tools that helps people translate and publish work in other languages faster and at a higher quality. Our automatic translation system also learns from any corrections.
  • We announce All for Good. It’s a single search interface for volunteer activities across many major volunteering sites and organizations that’s developed using App Engine and Google Base. Many Googlers contributed to the open source project in their 20 percent time.
  • We release a beta version of AdSense for Mobile Applications, which allows developers to earn revenue by displaying text and image ads in iPhone and Android applications.
  • Google SMS is a suite of mobile applications that allows people in Africa to access information—like health and agriculture tips, news and local weather—using SMS on their mobile phones, and includes a marketplace application for finding buyers and sellers of goods.

July

  • Both the enterprise and consumer versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk are now out of beta.
  • We announce that we’re developing the Google Chrome OS, an open source, lightweight operating system initially targeted at netbooks.
  • We launch Moon in Google Earth on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. The tool features lunar imagery, information about the Apollo landing sites, panoramic images shot by the Apollo astronauts and narrated tours.
  • The new comics themes for iGoogle range from classic strips like Peanuts to heroes like Batman to alternative comics from all over the world.
  • We add a search options panel to Google Images, making it easier to find the types of images you need.

August

  • Any active U.S. service member is invited to sign up for a Google Voice account, to help them keep in better touch with family and friends, especially when deployed abroad.
  • We announce a deal to acquire On2 Technologies, a high-quality video compression technology company.
  • New social features come to iGoogle, including social gaming, media-sharing and to-do list gadgets as well as an update feed for friends’ activities.
  • Google Insights for Search is now available in 39 languages around the world. While we’re at it, we introduce a forecasting feature and an animated map.
  • We expand the YouTube Partnership Program to include individual popular videos, so you can monetize your viral video and earn revenue even if you aren’t a member of the Partnership Program.
  • We add Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh and Yiddish to Google Translate, bringing the total number of supported languages to 51—that’s 2,550 language pairs!

September

  • We celebrate the birthday of a product nearly as old as Google itself: Blogger. More than 300 million people visit the blogging site every month, and we’re proud that it continues to be a medium for people around the world to freely express themselves.
  • The search box on our classic homepage gets bigger.
  • FastFlip, an experiment in Google Labs, lets you quickly browse through recent news, headlines and popular topics like a print magazine, while at the same time offering some of the benefits of online news, like aggregation and search over many top publications, personalization and the ability to share content with your friends.
  • We acquire reCAPTCHA, a technology company focused on Optical Character Recognition (OCR)—the process that converts scanned images into plain text.
  • In an effort to create a more open display advertising ecosystem for everyone, we introduce the DoubleClick Ad Exchange, a real-time marketplace that helps large online publishers on one side; and ad networks and agency networks on the other, buy and sell display advertising space.
  • On the birthday of the “father of science fiction,” we unveil the truth behind a mysterious series of doodles in tribute to H.G. Wells.
  • We introduce Place Pages to Google Maps: one page that organizes all the relevant information about a business, point of interest, transit station, neighborhood, landmark or city—in any part of the world—in one place. Place Pages include rich details, like photos, videos, a Street View preview, nearby transit, reviews and related websites.

October

  • We begin a series of posts on the Official Google Blog dedicated to the latest and greatest in the world of Google search.
  • Flu Trends, our flu surveillance tool, is now available in 16 additional countries and in 37 languages.
  • We introduce BuildingMaker, a tool for creating buildings for Google Earth that lets you construct a model of a building using aerial photos and simple 3D shapes.
  • We announce an agreement with Twitter to include their updates in our search results.
  • Social Search, a new experiment on Google Labs, helps you find relevant public content from your friends and contacts right in your Google search results.
  • Google Maps Navigation, our turn-by-turn GPS navigation system, includes 3D views and voice guidance—and because it’s connected to the Google cloud, it always includes the newest map data, lets you search by voice or along a route, and provides live traffic data.
  • A new search feature helps you find music information on the web. When you enter the name of a song, artist or album, or even a snippet of lyrics, your search results will include links to an audio preview of those songs provided by our music search partners.

November

  • The Google Dashboard provides you with greater transparency and control over the data associated with your Google Account.
  • A new series on the Official Google Blog covers what’s new in Google Apps.
  • We add full-text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts to Google Scholar. We think this addition will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all.
  • An experimental feature in Labs called Image Swirl builds on new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a fun, exploratory interface.
  • By combining automatic speech recognition (ASR) technology with the YouTube caption system, we offer automatic captions in YouTube. Captions can help the deaf and hearing impaired, enable people around the world to access video content through machine translation, improve search and enable users to jump to the exact parts of the videos they’re looking for.
  • A few months after announcing our open source operating system project, we open-source the project as Chromium OS in order to engage with partners, the open source community and developers.

December

  • A new homepage design shows only our logo, the search box and the buttons upon first loading, and reveals other links on the homepage, such as Gmail or Image Search, when the user moves the mouse.
  • Google Public DNS is part of our ongoing effort to make the web faster. A DNS resolver converts easy-to-remember domain names into unique Internet Protocol (IP) numbers so that computers can communicate with one another.
  • With our new real-time search feature, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter, as well as news headlines and blog posts published just seconds before your search—right on the search results page.
  • Just in time for the holidays, we roll out Mac and Linux versions of Google Chrome, as well as extensions for Chrome in Windows and Linux (all in beta).
  • Living Stories, developed in partnership with The New York Times and The Washington Post, is an experimental format prototype for presenting online news. (We ended this experiment in February 2010, and open-sourced the code for anyone to use.)
  • We introduce a few new features to Google Toolbar, including an easy way to share any page on the web, shortened by a new URL shortener (goo.gl).
  • For the first time, YouTube reveals official Most-Watched lists and some of its fastest-rising search terms for the past year.

Back to top

2010

January

  • We introduce Nexus One, an exemplar of what’s possible on mobile devices through Android, as well as a Google-hosted web store aimed at providing people with an easier way to buy a mobile phone.
  • Now, you can upload all file types, including large graphics files, RAW photos, ZIP archives and more to the cloud through Google Docs, giving you one place where you can upload and access your key files online.
  • We state our new approach to business in China: Google will no longer censor search results on Google.cn, and we will work to determine how we might operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if possible.
  • On International Data Privacy Day, we publish our privacy principles. We’ve always operated under these principles, but now codify them to share our thinking as we create new technologies.

February

  • The first-ever Google Super Bowl ad tells a love story through search terms. This is one of many videos made to celebrate the human quests behind search.
  • In time for the Winter Games in Vancouver, we introduce Street View imagery of Whistler Blackcomb Mountains, gathered with a special camera-equipped snowmobile.
  • Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about things you find interesting—like photos, videos, webpages or whatever might be on your mind—built into Gmail and for mobile.
  • We introduce Safety Mode in YouTube, an opt-in setting to help screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to stumble across while enjoying YouTube.
  • We announce a plan to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks, delivering Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, in a small number of trial locations across the United States.
  • We acquire Aardvark, a company that lets you quickly and easily tap into the knowledge and experience of your friends and extended network of contacts.
  • The next generation of ad-serving technology for online publishers, DoubleClick for Publishers and DFP Small Business, combines Google’s technology and infrastructure with DoubleClick’s display advertising and ad serving experience.

March

  • We acquire Picnik, a site enabling you to edit your photos in the cloud, without leaving your browser.
  • Stars in search is a new feature that makes it easier for you to mark and rediscover your favorite web content.
  • The Google Apps Marketplace is a new online store for integrated business applications that allows Google Apps customers to easily discover, deploy and manage cloud applications that integrate with Google Apps.
  • Bike directions and bike trail data come to Google Maps.
  • Following the January announcement about search in China, we stop censoring our search services–Google Search, Google News and Google Images–on Google.cn, instead redirecting users from Google.cn to Google.com.hk.

April

  • For April Fools’ Day, we change our name to Topeka. The change is a tribute to Topeka, Kansas, which changed its name to Google as part of an effort to bring our experimental fiber network to that city.
  • Scientists announce a significant new hominid fossil discovery, made with help from Google Earth, in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa.
  • New features for real-time search include the ability to search the archive of public tweets and “replay” the conversation from a particular moment in time, as well as a tool called Google Follow Finder that helps you find new people to follow.
  • Google Places (formerly the Local Business Center) gets a new name along with some new features, like showing service areas and, in some cities, the ability to use an easy advertising program called Tags.
  • We launch a Government Requests tool to give people information about the requests for user data or content removal we receive from government agencies around the world.
  • With Earth view in Google Maps, you can explore Google Earth’s detailed 3D imagery and terrain directly in Google Maps, on your browser.
  • Oregon becomes the first state to open up Google Apps for Education to public schools throughout the state.

May

  • As part of our efforts to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy, we make our first direct investment in a utility-scale renewable energy project.
  • In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we provide Google Earth imagery of the spill’s spread.
  • We roll out a refreshed look for our search results, with a new, contextual left-hand panel that highlights the most relevant search tools and refinements for your query.
  • A team of Googlers in London create a photomosaic of the Google logo. (Later, this project becomes the inspiration for a company contest.)
  • At Google I/O, we announce Google TV, which is built on Android and Chrome and gives you an easy and fast way to navigate to television channels, websites, apps, shows and movies. We’re busy at I/O this year, with a handful of other announcements and updates.
  • In celebration of PAC-MAN’s 30th birthday, we release our first-ever playable doodle, complete with all 256 levels and Ms. PAC-MAN. It’s so popular we soon give it a permanent home.
  • You have the option to search more securely with SSL-encrypted Google web search.
  • We release a report on our economic impact in the United States: in 2009, we generated a total of $54 billion of economic activity for American businesses, website publishers and non-profits.
  • The 2010 Doodle 4 Google winner in the U.S. is third grader Mackenzie Melton, for her doodle “Rainforest Habitat.”
  • We officially acquire AdMob, a mobile display advertising company.

June

  • You can now personalize your Google.com with a background image.
  • With help from the Marin Bee Company, we install the Hiveplex–four bee hives painted in Google’s colors, situated in a flowered area on our campus. We have our first honey harvest later in the year.
  • We collaborate with the Guggenheim Museum on a global online initiative, called YouTube Play: A Biennal of Creative Video, to discover the most creative video in the world.
  • We catch football fever, offering ways for fans to stay on top of the 2010 World Cup as well as a lot of thorough analysis of soccer search trends.
  • Caffeine, our new indexing system, provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index, and is the largest collection of web content we’ve offered.
  • Google Voice is now available to anyone in the U.S.
  • We stop redirecting Chinese users from Google.cn to Google.com.hk. Instead, we provide a landing page where users can use Google.cn services that we can provide without filtering, and/or click through to Google.com.hk for search.
  • The Google News homepage is redesigned to make your view of news more relevant and easier for you to share interesting stories.

July

  • We sign an agreement to acquire ITA, a software company specializing in organizing airline data, including flight times, availability and prices.
  • “Life in a Day” is a cinematic experiment to document one day, as seen through the eyes of people around the world.
  • We acquire Metaweb, a company that maintains an open database of things in the world.
  • We announce an agreement to purchase the clean energy from 114 megawatts of wind generation at the NextEra Energy Resources Story County II facility in Iowa.
  • Google Images gets a new look, designed to make it easier for you to take advantage of some of the powerful technology behind Images.
  • Google Apps for Government, our newest edition of Google Apps, includes the same Google applications offered to businesses and everyday users, with specific measures to address the policy and security needs of the public sector.

August

  • We will not continue to develop Google Wave as a standalone product.
  • We acquire Slide, a social technology company with an extensive history of building new ways for people to connect with others across numerous platforms online.
  • With Verizon, we announce a joint policy proposal for an open Internet.
  • Voice Actions for Android are a series of voice commands that let you control your phone just by speaking.
  • If you’re in the U.S., you can now call any phone directly from Gmail.
  • Realtime Search gets a new standalone homepage, along with more tools for exploring and refining real-time results.
  • The Wilderness Downtown” is a musical experience created by writer/director Chris Milk with the band Arcade Fire and Google, built with Google Chrome in mind using HTML5 and other technologies.
  • Priority Inbox, an experimental way of handling information overload in Gmail, automatically sorts your email by importance, using a variety of signals.

September

October

November

December

Back to top

2011

January

  • We announce that co-founder Larry Page will become CEO in April 2011. Eric Schmidt will be Executive Chairman.
  • The first episode of the YouTube World View speaker series airs with President Obama answering citizen questions following his State of the Union address.
  • In the midst of protests in Egypt, we introduce a service called Speak to Tweet: Dial a phone number, leave your tweet as a voicemail and we’ll publish it for you—meaning anyone can have a voice, even without an Internet connection.

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

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November

December

Back to top

2012

January

Google Search History Expands, Becomes Web History

Google’s Search History feature, which was switched on as a default option for many Google searchers in February, has now been renamed Web History to reflect how it has expanded to track what Google users do as they surf the web. It’s a huge move for Google and raises anew privacy issues. Below, a detailed look at how the system works, how to pause or delete logging if you want, the impact on search results and more.This is a big story, and not all parts may be of interest to everyone. If you want to skip ahead, use the links to jump to particular sections:

Web History Depends On Google Toolbar

Web history is tied to the Google Toolbar. The Google Toolbar — first released back in December 2000 — has long had the ability to track whatever a user views across the web. This only happened if the toolbar’s PageRank meter was enabled. By default, the PageRank meter was NOT switched on. In fact, it’s long been joked that the relatively few people who do turn it on are SEOs who obsess over getting links from pages with high PageRank.

That’s now changing. If you download the Google Toolbar directly from the Google Toolbar page, it will still be the case that the PageRank meter will NOT be switched on. However, Google will now begin prompting users in various ways to download a version where the PageRank tracking feature IS switched on or to get those with the toolbar already installed to switch it over.

Let’s go through the options as Google has explained them to me:

  • Virgin Searcher: You come to Google WITHOUT a Google Account, which you get only if you sign-up with an email address for various Google services such as Gmail or Google Analytics. In other words, you just came to search. Google is NOT going to start keeping track of your web history or your searches, beyond the general and pretty anonymous logging any search engine does (see Google Anonymizing Search Records To Protect Privacy for much more about this). You might see messages and prompts encouraging you to try Web History or the Google Toolbar, however (Google’s long had promotions like this). If you select one of these options, you’ll get a version of the Google Toolbar with tracking enabled.
  • Google Account Holder: Have a Google Account and log into your main page for some reason? Soon, you should start seeing a prompt to try Web History.
  • Google Toolbar User Without PageRank: Come to Google with the Google Toolbar installed, but without the PageRank meter on, and Google says you should start seeing messages to sign-up for Web History. Do that, and the PageRank meter will be enabled.
  • Google Toolbar User With PageRank: Come to Google, and you’ll be prompted to sign-up for Web History if you aren’t already enrolled. You won’t need to have PageRank switched on because you’re already that way!
  • Search History User Without The Toolbar: Many people have had the Search History feature enabled over the past few weeks, because of the change Google did back in February. If you visit your Search History area, you’ll see it changed to Web History and Google will prompt you to get the Google Toolbar with tracking.
  • Search History User With The Toolbar: Got Search History? Got the Google Toolbar? If PageRank isn’t enabled, you’ll be prompted to do this. If it IS already enabled, you’ll be promoted to allow it to feed into Web History, since Google’s privacy policy won’t just allow it to flow your surfing history into Web History.

Is this retroactive? IE, if you’ve had the toolbar for years, does all that history flow in? No — only web surfing history from when you enrolled in Web History will be logged.

Pushing The Google Toolbar

So far, I haven’t seen some of the prompts happen, with the testing I’ve been doing. Some might not be live yet. But here are some examples.

For a “virgin” searcher who comes to Google with no toolbar and opens an account for the first time, they’ll see a Web History link at the top of their search results like this:

Web History Link

Clicking on the Web History link makes this “Welcome to Web History” page come up:

Virgin Web History Screen

You can see how there’s a big button prompting the searcher to “Enable Web History and Install Toolbar.”

Have the Google Toolbar and a Google Account but do NOT have the PageRank meter on? The software disclosure box disappears and the Enable button now says “Enable Web History and PageRank,” like so:

Alternative Signup Page

Clicking on the button causes my browser to quickly download a software applet, which flips PageRank on.

What if you come to Google with the Google Toolbar already having PageRank enabled — plus you have a Google account? The “Enable” button asks you simply to “Enable Web History,” like so:

Web History Page, If You Have PageRank

I selected “Enable Web History” button and that was it. Now pages I viewed started getting logged, as you can see here:

Web History Page

Let’s zoom in:

Web History Closeup

Notice my visit to Search Engine Land, then my visit to Flickr (to upload those pictures above!)? All of that is now recorded by Google. I’ll get back to the management — and disabling of that if you want — in a moment.

In the steps above, I also saw some inconsistencies. Sometimes Google would log me out, then make me log back in, when I selected the Web History link. Other times, that link would say Search History. This is all likely due to the rollout being in progress and me possibly switching between data centers.

Using Your Web History

Let’s get more into what’s recorded. Let’s also assume in this case that you love the idea.

To reach your web history, use that “Web History” link at the top of any search results page, or you can go to it directly here. As shown above, pages you visit on the web get logged. Unfortunately, there’s no way to zoom in on only visited pages. For instance, look here:

Web History Closeup

In the example above, you can see the searches I’ve done are mixed in with pages I’ve visited. If I want, I can filter out all but only web searches by clicking on the “Web” link:

Web History: Web Searches

Or I can filter to just image searches:

Web History: Image Searches

But there’s no way to filter to see just pages I’ve visited, which I think is a huge oversight. A key pitch behind this product is that you can see all the pages you’ve visited at your fingers tips. Except you can’t, not unless you don’t mind them being mixed with all your searches.

Some other annoyances. For one, I’d find Google would switch me out of my test account and into my main Google account for no apparent reason. This might be related to having Google Talk using my main account at the same time I had my browser using the test account. Most people probably don’t have several different Google accounts, but still — it’s disturbing to see a switch like that. It could also mean that data you never wanted to go into one account could start flowing there.

Browsing Page Visits

Visit several pages from one site? The feature nicely consolidates them like this:

Page Consolidation In Google Web History

See the little + box?

Expansion Button In Google Web History

Click on that, and the individual pages from a particular site open up:

Page Deconsolidation In Google Web History

Still, it’s a big buggy. That “WordPress > Error” title shows up for a page that actually loaded fine. You can see “http://mattcutts.com” has no title shown despite the page actually having a proper title tag.

In addition, visit the same site several times throughout a day and each particular session will be consolidated, not all of them into one.

Huh? Here’s a picture:

Separate Visits In Google Web History

The bottom red highlighted section shows when I went to mattcutts.com at 12:41am my time and viewed a few pages. Those all got consolidated around the time of that visit. Then I went back at 1:00am. All the pages from that second visit were consolidated separately from my previous visit, as the top red highlighted section shows.

“Session” consolidation like this is handy if you want to see your browsing chronologically. But if you want to see all visits to a particular site — say for across an entire day, week or month, this doesn’t seem possible.

Searching & What Gets Stored

How about doing a search to make it happen? That kind of works. There’s a search box at the top of your Web History section called “Search History.” This lets you search against items you’ve visited. A search for [http://mattcutts.com] told me I had no items, which surprised me. I expected the URLs to be at least matched. Switching to [mattcutts.com] didn’t help, either. Using the site command, [site:mattcutts.com], worked to give me five matches:

Searching Web History At Google

I could even use the links to the far right and top of page to sort the list by date (by default, it’s by relevance).

Of course, most searchers have no idea of the site: command, so this “feature” is largely invisible to typical Web History users. Also, [site:www.flickr.com] failed to find the various visits I made to Flickr, so the command might not always work perfectly (it did work for several other sites I tried).

Speaking of searching, what exactly are you searching against? The Google Blog post about the new feature says:

Imagine being able to search over the full text of pages you’ve visited online and finding that one particular quote you remember reading somewhere months ago.

This suggests that when you visit a page, Google is making a copy of that page — exactly when you visited it — and saving the entire text at that time. Gary Price has been testing this and believes that’s the case. I’m not so sure, because I don’t know how he can test a page from 2006 that’s been recorded in Web History when it only started recording pages today.

Let me explain this more. Search History has always recorded any pages you visited after clicking through to them from Google search results. In some testing I’m doing, it also does seem to be the case that when you would click this way, Google would make a copy of that page stored within your own Search History area, as of the time you visited.

Now when you go to pages across the web — without clicking on them from search results — Google seems to be making copies of these pages as well. I’ll check on this, but if so, it leads to another issue. Is Google making copies of pages if site owners have blocked from spidering or caching (for more on blocking, see yesterday’s Google Releases Improved Content Removal Tools article). If so, should it be doing this?

Pausing Web History

Let’s talk now about pausing Web History. There may be times when you decide you don’t want the pages you visit to be recorded, even though you like recording in general.

The most straight-forward way is to use the Pause link within your Web History screen. Look to the left-hand side, and you’ll see it near the bottom of the link list, as I’ve highlighted in red below:

Web History Pause Link

Push it, and you’ll see this message appear at the top of the Web History screen:

Web History Paused

Recording of everything — the searches you do, as well as the pages you visit, also stops. It won’t resume until you select the Resume link (which replaces the Pause link you originally clicked on).

Unfortunately, there’s no way to selectively pause items. Perhaps you’re OK with your searches being recorded but want to pause only web page visits from being stored. You can’t do that.

Also unfortunately, there’s no Pause button on the toolbar itself. That would be ideal. If you’re browsing the web, it’s a pain to have to go to Google, push Pause on a web page, then go back to your surfing.

As a workaround to this, you can sign-out of Google using the toolbar. Look for the Settings button, then click on that. In the drop down, you’ll see the account you’re signed into Google using:

Google Toolbar Sign-Out Button

Sign-out, and that’s it. What you visit is no longer recorded. Just keep in mind that if you go back and use ANY Google account that requires being signed-in, you’ll cause recording to resume. If you want to securely permanently pause it, you need to use the Pause link.

Deleting Web History

Been using Web History for a bit and decide there are some searches, or places you’ve been, that you rather not have recorded any longer? Go back to those links on the left-hand side of the Web History page and find the “Remove items” option, as I’ve highlighted in red below:

Web History Remove Items

Chose that, and you’ll see these options at the top of the page:

Deleting Web History At Google

Those allow you to select all items listed on a page or your entire search history, if you want. Alternatively, you can tick items individually to wipe them out. If you decide to wipeout everything, this also automatically pauses your Web History going forward. Pretty smart that — Google assuming if you want to kill everything, you probably don’t want more stuff recorded.

Be aware that while deleting wipes out material from your Web History, potentially some of the information is still available in two different ways:

  1. Information on what you searched for might still be associated with your IP address in server log data. My Google Anonymizing Search Records To Protect Privacy article from last month goes into detail about server logs. For most people, this really isn’t something to worry about. The data stored within those server logs is far, far less identified with you as is stored with your Web History profile. In fact, the server logs will NOT have any of your Google Toolbar tracking data. The Google Web History Privacy FAQ touches on the log issue when it mentions the “separate log system” that’s maintained.
  2. Web History data is also archived. These archives are not “retrievable in real-time by end users,” Google told me. But the data is ultimately retrievable. If Google itself decided it needed to pull the archives and check something, it could — even though you deleted the data in the “live” system. Similarly, a government agency could potentially legally compel Google to go to its archives and recover information that was deleted off a live system. In addition, while toolbar tracking data won’t be part of a Google server log, that data is being logged in some way — and archives of that data could be recovered. In short, if you really, really don’t want data recorded, don’t think deleting it after the fact is enough.

Permanently Ending Web History

Back in February, I wrote the long Google Ramps Up Personalized Search article to explain how Search History was effectively the default for anyone new signing-up for any Google service. I cannot underscore enough the importance of this change. It instantly meant many more people than ever before were going to be getting their search data logged with Google — really logged, really profiled beyond the typical web server logging that any web site has happening.

Today’s change is going to push many more people into recording search history — as well as web browsing history. From what I can see so far, Google’s not trying to sneakily include people who already have accounts or the Google Toolbar into Web History. Those pages I mentioned above have pretty big buttons telling you something is going to happen — and it only happens if you decide to push one of them. Even those signing up for a Google account for the first time still get the big button option/warning. So there’s fair warning, but I expect there will be fair take-up as well — unless today’s move backfires on Google as simply too much for a company that continues to get more worrisome for people.

Down the line, some people might rethink having the service at all. You can remove it altogether. Log-in to your Google Account (or select the “My Account” link at the top of any Google page, if you are logged in). In the “My Services” list, choose the “Edit” link, then select the “Delete Web History” link. Follow the instructions on the next screen, that that will permanently remove Web History from your account. Too many steps to follow? Click here, and it will jump you right to the delete option.

Sadly, there’s no way to remove Web History but keep only Search History, if you’ve upgraded. I can give you a workaround. You’ll have to delete Web History and lose all your saved data — including any saved searches. Once you’ve done this, go back to the main Google Accounts page, look in the “Try something new” list and select “Web History.” When you get the “Welcome To Web History” screen like I showed above, select the “Limit Web History to Searches” option. That will keep page visits from being logged if you still decide to use the Google Toolbar with the PageRank meter enabled.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll see this message as a reminder your web history is “limited” to searches.

Search History Reminder

FYI, if you enable Web History and then remove the Google Toolbar, obviously nothing gets logged. Google will keep telling you that Web History is enabled, but so far (I’ve tested), it doesn’t remind you that you need to get the toolbar going for it to fully work.

Toolbar Alternatives

I suspect that the integration of the Google Toolbar with Web History is going to freak some people out — to the point they decide the toolbar needs to go completely. If that’s you, but you like some of the features of the Google Toolbar, there are some excellent workarounds.

First, get Groowe. For both Firefox and Internet Explorer, it faithfully imitates the key features of the Google Toolbar as well as many other search engines. I’ve used it for years. It’s one of those rare keeper tools that’s survived on my desktop. With a click, I can search against any of the major search engines — plus save to Digg or Delicious.

Second, SEOs should get Search Status for Firefox. Among many other awesome and useful things, it gives you the PageRank meter without the data going to Google, to the best of my knowledge. I’ve not tested what happens if you have Search Status pulling PageRank data while you have Web History enabled but do NOT have the Google Toolbar installed. If I have time, I’ll try this later. But I’m fairly sure you’ll be safe. Test it out yourself, and then someone comment below to let us all know!

Web History, Personalized Search & Closing The Loop

Made it through all the how it works stuff? Let’s move into the why. Google is big on personalization. Big, big, big. Everyone else can keep their “wisdom of the crowds” stuff. For Google, getting up close and personal with individuals is seen as a big leap forward on many fronts — and 2007 is the year Google is going all out after it. Consider these stories we’ve covered over the past few weeks that are all related to personalized moves:

The more Google can know about you, the more it believes it can deliver you a better or more unique experience (not to mention more targeted ads). But in particular, personalization is seen as the next generational step in delivering better search results. My Google Ramps Up Personalized Search article I keep mentioning explains how the personalized search results at Google work in much more detail and the entire next generational idea.

Until now, the key factors to influence personalized rankings have been:

  1. Sites someone clicks on in search results
  2. Sites added to the Google Personalized Homepage
  3. Sites saved with Google Bookmarks

Now add a fourth — sites an individual visits as recorded with Web History will influence rankings, as well.

“In our view, we could do a better job personalizing if we had more data to personalize on. By having web history for most web sites you visit, that helps us understand more about you,” said Marissa Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google. “Ultimately, we think our personalized search result swill get much better.”

Tapping into the toolbar to help with rankings has long been expected. My Google: Master Of Closing The Loop? article from last week revisited this:

With all the things I’ve mentioned above — Google Toolbar, Google Analytics, Web Accelerator, AdWords conversion tracking — Google had always made noises or semi-reassurances that the data would somehow be “ring fenced” or not shared with other departments. Especially with Google Toolbar, we were repeatedly told it would not be used to find new web pages nor harnessed for ranking purposes.

So now it comes true — toolbar data will be used for ranking purposes, specifically to alter each individual’s unique search results. And I have no doubt we’ll see it used in aggregate, just as Google is certainly going to continue to “close the loop” by tapping into any data source it can. Some of these site owners will continue to be able to influence (see 3 Ranking Survival Tips For Google’s New Personalized Results for some advice here). Others will return to that ages old advice that sites with good content and that seek to help visitors should have a better chance to filter to the top.

Trying to understand more about the personalization change, from a site owner’s perspective or just from Google’s view as a business strategy? Here are two more articles from us to check out:

Should You Worry?

With today’s announcement, part of me wants to ring the alarm bell and shout “Uninstall your toolbar! Delete your Google account!” Because let’s face it. Google’s getting big, huge, giant. It’s no longer a joke that the once small, lovable company wants to conquer the world. The Google monster company really is gobbling it up, with no barriers seemingly left. The “we’re a tech company” charade is over from the very top, with CEO Eric Schmidt finally calling Google recently in a Wired interview “an advertising company.” As for the mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” that’s not even listed in the four ways we’re told by him to think of Google:

  1. An advertising company
  2. An end-user system (to me, a combination operating system/super office suite of software)
  3. A giant supercomputer
  4. A social phenomenon

I remember when Google was a search engine, with a philosophy that said, “Google does search.” Now it puts ads on TV, in radio, in print — serves as a payment platform, provides web analytics, pitches software “packs” to us and more. Does it really need to have our web surfing histories as well? When’s enough enough?

On the other hand, I’m a big believer in personalized search. I think this type of data can indeed improve the search experience. Moreover, I hate to single out Google just because it is big. We run MyBlogLog here — and all those MyBlogLog members, as I’ve covered, have their surfing habits tracked by Yahoo-owned MyBlogLog. Pick any number of Javascript widgets or tracking things people install. All of them send tracking data back to a mothership about web sites or individuals. Yet little criticism gets raised about this, even when big companies are involved. So why should Google get special attention?

Indeed, just today we had news that the European Union is likely to send Google a letter that it might be violating data retention laws. I can virtually guarantee you that whatever Google gets dinged on, Yahoo and Microsoft are probably doing the same. But no one focuses on them in terms of search privacy.

Moreover, I’m actually pretty annoyed at some of the privacy advocacy groups. When Google announced it would anonymize server data last month, I still saw some old school concerns that fairly anonymous cookie data and IP addresses were a privacy concern. C’mon — you want to be concerned about something, you get concerned about the fact Google has — and is growing — real honest-to-goodness personally identifiable profiles of individual searchers. And if you want to get concerned about that, also get concerned that Yahoo and Microsoft have similar profiling — just not as visible to the searcher.

Indeed, that visibility was another reason Mayer said Google was making today’s Web History move: “We want to be transparent with users to see what data we have,” she said.

As noted, Google Toolbar users with PageRank-enabled (all of whom voluntarily enabled it) have been sending their page visitation histories to Google for years. They simply couldn’t see that history, nor delete it, if they wanted. Now you can. Now if you’re concerned, it’s because the data is more in your face.

Should you be concerned? Of course. Everyone should be concerned about their private data. Everyone should really think about what is being logged and how it is being used. But we also make tradeoffs. We want certain things from companies, and to get them, we have to give up some of our privacy, often trusting it will be protected. Mayer herself says this:

“There is a greater level of association here [of personal data to individuals]. There’s also a greater level of utility, being able to easily and nicely see your history of where you’ve been on the web. There is a trade-off in that there is a record that is associated with your email address, and that users need to consider carefully.”

There is no doubt many people will find having a web history useful. There is no doubt web histories will help improve results for many people. Just using a search engine at all — even if you don’t log in — still involves trust in passing along a query that by the query’s own content could potentially identify you. In the end, those with concerns needn’t enroll in the web history feature. Google will work fine without it.

Interested in what others are saying? Techmeme is tracking the story, so you’ll find related coverage there.

Postscript: Some answers to follow-up questions:

  • A Google-hosted copy of a page visited via the toolbar or from clicking on a search result is not made.
  • Secure (SSL/HTTPS) pages are not tracked

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