What is Google?

Google is the world’s most popular search engine and a central force in the development of the Internet. The company operates a large range of services, from e-mail and cloud storage to maps and digital assistants. Its physical products include the Pixel smartphone line, Chromecast in-home streaming device and the Nest smart home system. Google also produces a suite of work and productivity tools, such as Docs, Sheets and Slides. In total, more than 70 percent of the world’s online search requests are handled by Google. The company is headquartered in Mountain View, California. It is a subsidiary of the holding company Alphabet Inc.

Google was founded in 1996 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University. They created a search engine that used complex algorithms to select and rank Web pages for relevance. The new service quickly became a dominant player in the Web search market. Its success was based in part on its ranking method, which favored pages that were most linked to other pages on the Web. This was a significant improvement over the standard approach that ranked pages by keyword density and other factors. The name Google comes from the word googol, a mathematical expression that denotes a number of 1 followed by 100 zeroes. It was chosen by the founders because it emphasized their vision of organizing the world’s information in an accessible and useful manner.

The Google search engine works by searching the entire World Wide Web for a given query and returning the best matching results. The process starts with Google’s 11 data centres, each containing several hundred thousand interlinked computers. These servers run three proprietary pieces of software: Google File System (GFS), Bigtable and MapReduce. GFS manages the storage of data in “chunks” across multiple machines; Bigtable is a distributed database program and MapReduce is an algorithm that processes large amounts of data to generate higher-level statistics such as search results.

Other Google products and services include Gmail, a widely-used e-mail service; Google Maps, a map-based tool that includes street level details of cities and other places; and Google Drive, a cloud storage service. In addition, the Google Play store sells apps, books and music for Android devices, while the formerly separate Google Reader application was replaced by the more general Google News. Google also has a suite of open source products such as Google Code Search, Google Desktop and Google Docs. Google Labs once displayed upcoming features, but was shut down in 2015.

The company offers a variety of other products, such as the Google Fiber broadband service that is available to about 3.1 million people and its Nexus tablet computers. It also has branched out into the convenience economy with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its Waymo self-driving car project, which is operating public test cars in Phoenix and San Francisco. In 2016, it earned nearly all of its revenue from advertising based on users’ search requests.

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