What is Google?
Google is the world’s most popular search engine and an essential part of the internet as we know it. It was founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page as a part of their thesis project at Stanford University. Today it operates in many areas including hardware, cloud computing and advertising as well as its famous search engine. The company’s name has even entered the lexicon as a verb, meaning to google something, and it has become a powerful tool for research, communication and entertainment.
The core of google is a sophisticated search algorithm that sifts through billions of pages in seconds using specially designed computers called servers. These interlinked machines are housed in 11 data centres around the world. These centres are powered by three proprietary computer programs, GFS (which handles storage in chunks across multiple machines), Bigtable (the database program) and MapReduce (a programme that processes large datasets). Together they create an index of every web page that exists and rank their importance according to a variety of factors. This highly secret algorithm is based on PageRank, which calculates the weighted sum of a page’s importance based on how many other pages link to it. Over time, google has added other secret criteria to improve the accuracy of its results.
In 2001, Google grew from its search engine roots into an industry leader in online advertising. The launch of AdWords meant that users were shown relevant search ads in addition to the ten blue links at the top of the SERP. Later that year, Google Images was created after Jennifer Lopez’s jungle print dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards became the most searched query. In 2002, Google News was launched bringing real-time news articles directly to searchers. Eventually, Google Shopping was also introduced for those looking to buy goods on the internet.
One of the most exciting developments is Google’s Knowledge Graph, which attempts to go beyond simple keyword matching by organising information from sources other than webpages. It includes information about people, places and things that are not necessarily on the internet at all, from text documents in libraries to public transport timetables.
In order to deal with this ever-growing volume of information, google has to constantly innovate and develop new features and technologies. In recent years, they have developed a system that recognises the intent of a search by analysing words and phrases used in context. This is a significant step towards recognising what you really want when searching for a product, service or idea. They have also been working on a synonym system that matches searches to pages that describe the same thing. This has dramatically improved results in searches for things like ‘reviews’, ’pictures’ and ‘opening hours’. A few other key Google innovations include their voice recognition software, personalised results and the ability to filter out duplicates. All of these features are making google more and more useful all the time.