What will be the Internet experience without Google, particularly in those parts of the world where people mostly use free applications and where they are not much concerned about issues like who collects what data that are considered problem else where?
Google stated as a humble beginning when two university students Larry Page and Sergey Brin (on this year’s Forbes list of billionaires) started working on a search engine called BackRub in 1996. Google (name is derived from world googol that refers to the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros) was launched in 1998 and both entrepreneurs continued working to perfect their search technology. It was only in September 1999 that beta label came off the Google website. Rest is the history as they say.
Technology analyst Bill Thompson writes that now “the Google Empire stretches into millions of computers.” Those who have been following Google growth may remember that except its simple Home Page that has remained unchanged, Google has evolved to a point where users simply cannot do without it. Speed, relevancy and ease of use has made Google much more than a perfect search engine: Toolbar, Google news, Froggle, blogging service, desk bar, so far elite social networking community Orkut, 1,000 megabytes free Gmail and digital photo-sharing specialist Picasa are some among many unique services and tools associated with Google brand name.
Four years ago, I had no idea what Google was. I visited the Website for the first time when a friend Munir Ahmad casually mentioned it to me and I thought it was yet another search engine like so many already available to rummage around the Web. Now like so many other users, it has become an essential part of my Internet existence: This search engine has become my one screen solution for finding Websites and other hit and miss information, images (I also downloaded Picasa the day it was offered to users.), and even news (those customised Google news alerts that bring every thing I need in my inbox ‘as it happens’). Of course I search my own name sometime. I have Google’s popular toolbar and so far less familiar desk bar installed on my work and home computers. I have a couple of Weblogs running (on blooger.com), am on Orkut and use Gmail. It has been so intertwined in my Web related work that I forgot what I used before it. How did I live without Google earlier?
What is next from Google? It is difficult to speculate. Company ethos are that people at the Google do not talk much about what lies ahead and always give surprise to competitors as well as users. Throw some seeds and see what grows or raise the curiosity of ordinary users through policies like ‘invitation only’ have been the strategies of Google in the past. Desire to get the Gmail account and or an invitation to join Orkut has already made these services a talk of the Internet population as a whole. Those who have been through Orkut registration process and have visited their page showing demographic statistics can make out what sort of people already inhabit the community. No wonders text ads bring in so much revenue (half of Google’s revenue come from comes from selling text-based ads that are placed near search results and are related to the topic of the search. Another half of its revenues come from licensing its search technology to companies).
Browsers’ war is far from over and now Google is jumping into it. Some days ago the Web watchers are speculating about the launch of Gbrowser. Word is that the Gbrowser could be a Web browsing software or be a program that will search for music and or images or more. Apart from rumours in geeks’ weblogs and discussion groups all over the Internet, the most convincing evidence comes from the fact that in April last Google registered the ‘gbrowser.com‘ domain with WhoIs central registry. Well, this seems to be shelved for now.
It is natural for avid users to think about Google’s grand browser where the company should integrate all its tools and utilities. Imagine this: spell checking when you post, the ability to click on “blog this” (already available on Google’s tool bar), interrelated Gmail, instant messaging service showing all new arrivals in the Inboxes, may be a direct link to Orkut enabling users to throw flames to friends and friends of friends simultaneously. And if the Google browser is good, free, and has some unique features others browsers have not yet thought of, most of the users will switch, text ads notwithstanding. If Google wins the browser’s war, what the company will need in order to reign the Internet world will be her own operating system. And who knows?
Google has become synonymous with the Internet and commands a monopoly position. But if Google can make my life easier, most users are for it. Anybody has inside news on this?