What is Google?

Google, the world’s most popular search engine, handles billions of searches each day. It is so dominant that it has entered the lexicon as a verb: to google is to search the Internet. Google’s stated mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The company was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998 while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. They worked out of their college dorms to build a search engine they called Backrub, then later renamed it Google after a misspelling of the mathematical term googol (a number one followed by 100 zeroes).

Early in its development, the company focused on developing software to index and organize Web pages. Using this, they could create the most relevant search results for users. In addition to the search engine, the company has expanded to offer more services such as email (Gmail), online document creation, maps and location-based services, video sharing, and hardware products. Google also provides a range of advertising technologies such as Google AdWords and Google Analytics.

The core of Google’s technology is a system called PageRank, which ranks websites based on how often their content appears in searches and the relative importance of those keywords. This is determined by an algorithm that counts how many times the word or phrase appears in a web page, as well as how other web pages link to the target site. The result is a page ranking that can be adjusted in real-time, giving the search engine the ability to provide results that are both current and accurate.

To handle the enormous volumes of data that Google collects, it has built 11 data centers around the world. These facilities house tens of thousands of computers, each of which is interlinked to the others. The heart of Google’s data collection infrastructure is three proprietary pieces of computer code: GFS, Bigtable and MapReduce. GFS stores the data in chunks across multiple machines; Bigtable is the database program that assembles higher-level data from the chunks; and MapReduce processes the data into final forms that can be displayed or used by other applications.

Throughout its history, Google has launched and discontinued a multitude of different services. Some of these were short-lived experiments, while others were more long-term projects. Some of the more notable discontinued Google services include:

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