“Google” has become part of the vernacular of almost every language in the modern world. This incredible feat was accomplished in less than two decades. The ambitious project of two Standford University students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to design a better way to check the credibility of academic papers led them to develop what we all know today as Google.
Page and Brin, had the idea to equate web pages with published academic papers. Consequently, since an academic paper’s credibility is normally measured by how often it is cited by other papers on the same topic then the credibility of a web page should be ranked in a similar manner. Therefore, the higher the number of credible and relevant pages related to a given web page’s topic linking to it, the higher the rank of that page will be since it must be relevant and credible. They eventually developed a complex algorithm which would help us conduct effective and relevant searches on the web and with the help of private investors, Google went from a student project to one of the biggest and most profitable private companies on the planet.
In 2001, Google took its search engine capabilities one profitable step further and developed Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. The concept is simple, effective and quite appealing to advertisers since they only pay when someone clicks on their ad and is directed to their website. This is much more effective than traditional advertising found in newspapers, television or roadside billboards. What’s more, using online search engines to find a business is three times faster than using printed media such as a phone directory. It’s also appealling to customers since they are able to compare prices easily from the comfort of their own home and try to get the best possible price for the product or service they are interested in. It’s even beneficial for shops as well since they don’t have to display and keep in stock rarely bought products but instead, they can focus on a limited range of popular products.
The advent of online marketing has changed the way we shop and the way businesses work. We don’t have to settle for what’s available in our local shops anymore. We can order virtually anything online. Similarly, businesses can now focus on niche products since their customer base can be national or even international.
Google has become what economists call a “natural monopoly” since the bulk of searches on the web are conducted through its search engine. As a result, it’s almost impossible now for another search engine to succeed in the online search engine market. The issue, however, for some people, is that the algorithms used by Google to rank websites are constantly changing and, for the most part, they are kept a secret to prevent people from gaming the system. Google does provide us with advice and general guidelines but there are those who believe that Google is “judge, jury and executioner”. “You get penalised on suspicion of breaking the rules, [and] you don’t even know what the rules are.” At the moment, it seems that, whether we like it or not, Google will continue to influence our access to knowledge for years to come since it has amassed more data on searches and search results than any other search engine in existence.
If you’d like more information about how Google became the dominant search engine then read the BBC News article called “Just google it: The student project that changed the world”.