What is Google?

Google is the most popular search engine on the Internet. The company offers a wide range of Internet services, including email, cloud storage, and mobile phone software. Its enormous success has created controversy over its influence in the flow of information on the Web and has made it a target for criticism. The word “Google” has even entered the common lexicon to describe an activity carried out on the Internet; for example, it is sometimes said to “Google” something. The company was founded in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two graduate students at Stanford University. They worked out of their dormitory rooms to create a search engine that ranked Web pages not just by keywords and content, but also by how many other Web sites linked to them. This system became known as PageRank and helped Google quickly gain the largest search engine market share. In 1998, the company launched its initial public offering, making Page and Brin billionaires. The Google stock offering used a novel public auction approach designed to place the average investor on equal footing with financial industry professionals. In 2004 the company expanded its business to include a service called AdWords, which allows businesses to advertise online. Over the years, Google has added several other widely used products and services, including Android smartphones, the Chrome browser, G Suite, YouTube, and the social networking site Google+ (which was shut down in April 2019). The company has also acquired numerous other firms, such as FitBit, a maker of wearable fitness technology, and Waze, a free navigation smartphone app that uses real-time traffic data from drivers to provide directions. To support all of these services and products, Google operates 11 global data centers that contain more than a million interlinked computers. These computers run proprietary computer programs, including the Google File System (GFS), Bigtable, and MapReduce, which handle large amounts of data in chunks that are stored across multiple machines; this is an essential part of Google’s massive computing capability. Because Google is the world’s most dominant search engine, it has been subject to criticism over its power to shape the flow of information on the Internet. The company has responded by establishing the Google Foundation, which promotes ethical use of Google technologies. In addition, it has established the Google Science Fair and has donated over $100 million in grants to universities and nonprofit organizations worldwide. The company’s motto has been “Don’t be evil,” which it formally changed to simply “Don’t be bad.” This philosophy is reflected in the company’s corporate code of conduct. Earlier this year, Google was among the companies to take the bold step of publishing its code of conduct in full online. This move is an attempt to establish a more transparent relationship with the public. It is the first time a large publicly traded corporation has done so.

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