Business Today

From Google Search to Google Earth, a 15-year journey

September 27 not only marks the search giant's 15th year of existence, but also a journey in which a new way to search ended up as a rediscovery of everything we do.

Nandagopal Rajan | September 27, 2013 | Updated 19:58 IST
A Google-themed birthday cake is seen at the house where Google was founded on the company's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California
A Google-themed birthday cake is seen at the house where Google was founded on the company's 15th anniversary in Menlo Park, California, on September 26, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Nandagopal Rajan
Open Google Search today (September 27) and you will see the Gs and the Os gang up with the E and the L to bash up a toffee-filled piñata. Friday's logo celebrates 15 years of Google changing the world.

You might disagree, but I have no doubt that Google has changed my life. I no longer bother to remember how quinquagenarian, or for that matter even bureaucrat, is spelt. If I get stuck, there is always Google to turn to for the right spelling, along with its meaning and usage.

I also have comfortably forgotten where Karkatua is. If I need to go there, I will just open Google maps on my phone and ask for directions. This crowd-sourced map on my smart device has also made me bold enough to try and explore parts of my city I never knew existed. Of course, Google has made me dumber in the process, but it has also made me smarter, provided I am near a device that can open this treasure trove of knowledge.

September 27 marks the 15th year of Google's existence. But it also marks a 15-year journey in which a new way to search ended up as a rediscovery of everything we do.

The Google Search Timeline

The change stared with the launch of Gmail in 2009 as an invite-only service. Millions moved to this new email service leaving old faithfuls like Yahoo and Hotmail behind. Yes, Gmail was better, but it was also much simpler to use that its competitors.

Lest we forget, Google also gave us the first truly global social networking experience through Orkut. While Facebook might have dug an Orkut-shaped hole for this service, we cannot overlook the fact that at least some of us found long lost friends there, much before Facebook started showing its face. If you didn't know, Orkut is still alive, mostly in Brazil, and has over 33 million users.

But then Google has moved from changing how we use the Net to changing the world itself. Every byte of online content that is created these days is optimised to show up on top when someone keys in relevant words on Google. Being on top of a Google search page is the equivalent to breaking the Watergate scandal in modern day journalism. But, hey, just don't get too comfortable, for the Big G in California's Menlo Park has just given itself a birthday present by changing these very algorithms the worldwide web swears by. From now on, Hummingbird will be what hums in every SEO experts mind.

Business Today June 9, 2013 issue: How Google Will Change the World Again
Slowly Google has also moved into the physical domain. It is the driving force behind Android, the world's most popular mobile operating system which can now run everything from cars to television sets.

It has also showed us what it wants us to see through its Glass, a wearable computer that is bang there in front of your eyes. It is rumoured to be working on other stuff like smartwatches and smart shoes. If that wasn't enough, it will try and search for a cure for ageing itself with its new startup Calico.

All this means this company knows more about you than anybody else on earth. In fact, if you are a loyal Google user, the chances are it knows more about how you operate and think than you do. It is sitting on the biggest data pile in the world. A data pile that is good enough to suggest the best flight to New York on the sidebar of your mail as you open an invitation to an event in the Big Apple.

Strangely, for a company that can read the world and its inhabitants like an open book, Google is a very closed organisation with hardly anyone having a complete picture of what all it is up to.

But the good thing is that these bunch of geeks take their fiduciary responsibility pretty seriously - seriously enough for most of their users to not think twice before signing up for all of their services. For the company that showed us the earth on a small screen, we have to realise that we all now part of that Google Earth.

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