What is Google and How Does it Affect You?
Google is the world’s best-known Internet search engine. Its proprietary algorithm prioritizes Web pages according to how many other Web pages link to them, a method that explains its meteoric rise to prominence. Google’s success has fueled criticism and concern about its power to influence the flow of information on the Web. The company’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
Google’s services range from the familiar Gmail email service and Google Maps mapping app to YouTube video-sharing and Android mobile operating system software. It also offers a host of other work and productivity tools, such as the Chrome browser and the Chromebook laptop range. It has even ventured into hardware with the Pixel smartphone line and the Nest smart home device.
While Google has never disclosed its exact profits, its revenue is estimated to exceed $100 billion annually. The company employs more than 70,000 people worldwide.
The name of the company, Google, is a play on googol, the number 10 to the 100th power, coined in 1930 by Milton Sirotta, the nine-year-old nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner. The trademarked name quickly became a verb, and people began using it to refer to searching the Internet in general.
Since its founding, Google has had a storied history of innovation and expansion. Its employees were among the first to develop Internet search engines, e-commerce platforms and cloud storage services. The company has made major acquisitions, including the YouTube video-sharing site, which it purchased for $1.6 billion in 2012.
Like most large companies, Google keeps detailed records of its users. Some of that data is compiled to provide personalized results and to deliver targeted advertising on its search engine. Others, such as location data, are used to enable a variety of Google products and features.
For example, if you use the Google Maps app on your phone to navigate from work to home, the application may remember your locations and give you one-tap options for finding gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores along your route. While some find this feature useful, it can feel Big Brother-ish and raise privacy concerns. Google allows you to manage and control your location data.
In addition to a massively popular search engine, Google offers other online services such as Google News, which presents great news organized from thousands of sources; Google Shopping, which makes it easy to find products; and Google Duo, which provides a free cross-platform video calling service. The company also provides a service called Google Docs, which has all the capabilities of a traditional Microsoft Word program; and a presentation program called Google Slides.
The company also offers a high-speed fiber-optic Internet service called Google Fiber, which is available to approximately 3.1 million people in the United States. And it is testing self-driving cars with a division called Waymo. The company’s headquarters are located in Mountain View, California. Google is owned by Alphabet Inc.