Thirteen years ago, that is on 27th of September, 1998, Google Inc was registered as a company. As it turns an awkward teen, we look at the growth, transitions, success and pitfalls of the services offered by the brand, and its impact on the Internet at large. While the roots of Google as a search engine can be traced back to January 1996 (when it was first called BackRub), it was only after the company was incorporated that it bloomed to its full potential.

Let’s take a look at what they did right and what flopped in Google’s reign so far:

Google took its nascent steps into technology with the search engine, which continues to be the backbone of its operations. The success story of Google has a lot to do with its robust search optimization tools, and is rated as the most visited site as per latest Alexa rankings (the top two sites most visited in India are Google.co.in and google.com). In fact, a comScore result in August 2011 shows that Google sites make up for 65% of the search market in the US. However this journey had its share of security run-ins too, especially with the communist nations and the EU. However, everything said and done, Google did manage to strengthen its search engine roots with a variety of other products like Google Analytics and Google Maps. Maps have been a runaway success thanks to the mobile computing segment as an independent product too.

It started off with just looking for what you want

It started off with just looking for what you want

Google AdWords and AdSense (AdWords: October 23rd, 2000; AdSense: June 18th, 2003)
How do you make a living and ensure that you pay enough salaries to not just become the best employers in the world, but also attract the brightest of minds, selling free services? Well you can't. You need resources that earn you your bread and butter and Google is no different. Google AdWords was launched on October 23, 2000 and is the company's primary advertising product that acts as its important source of revenue. The company registered total advertising revenues of over $28 billion in 2010 alone.

Helping you understand the web

Helping you understand the web

AdSense launched on June 18, 2003 and is a program that enables AdWords advertisers to publish advertisements on website. These advertisements are placed and maintained by Google, which makes it possible to calculate revenue based on the per-click or per-impression basis AdWords model. Form this service, Google reportedly earned US$2.34 billion in 2011 alone. The success of AdWords and AdSense lies in the fact that it presented ads in an obstructive pattern, but an effective way, unlike flashy ad banners that was quite a rage in the 90s.

Google Image Search (July, 2001 No confirmed date available)
Google's runaway success in the search arena wasn’t merely because they focused primarily on their result base, and not flaunting ads, but also because of how they added more features to make it all pervasive. To further the process, they introduced the image search feature in July, 2001. The multilingual project was tied well with the main interface of the main search window where in users were offered to jump directly to the image search page directly through a search listing. As of 2010, the service is said to have indexed over 10 billion pages (1), with over a billion hits every day (2). And as a birthday gift, they have thrown in some new features: apart from image size, color and type, you can also sort the image results by subject. So for instance if you search for Jaguars, you can narrow it down as animals, cars, locations, etc. Quite an impressive upgrade! Now the next best thing would be image based search, akin to Google Goggles on the Android platform.

Orkut (January 22nd, 2004)
Although not a complete failure, considering that Orkut was a rage in nations like India and Brazil, Orkut failed to live up to the hype it created. As of July 2011, Orkut continues to be favored by its Brazilian users (they account for 58.1% of the user base, followed by India with 32% users). However, with Facebook spearheading into the social networking arena, Google doesn’t seem to be doing enough to salvage what they started from scratch on January 22nd, 2004. The many run-ins with the law pertaining to hate-campaign communities, spamming, and security issues haven’t helped their cause either.

Gmail (April 1st, 2004)
Google introduced its closed, by-invite-only free email service on April 1, 2004, which made it a very attractive and ensured that the company had enough eager users to jump the bandwagon. With time, Google added several features ensuring that its popularity remained intact. These services apart from the Gmail Lab that was introduced first in 2008 include Chat, Voice and Video chats, Buzz, and document support. Google mail also supports business accounts and is said to be one of most successful products that Google built from scratch. Google tends to regularly use Gmail to pull April fools pranks on its users. While Google did manage to launch a separate chat application, the chat module embedded within Gmail continues to offer better features, like the invisibility mode, voice module and video chat options.

Email extrodinaire

Email extrodinaire

Google Maps & Latitude (February 8th, 2005)
Launched on February 8, 2005, Google Maps, originally named as Google Local, was created as a technology to power subsequent mapping-based services. Apart from street maps, the API also offers features like route planning for travelling on foot, in a vehicle, bike (currently in beta version) or even if you plan to take public transport for select nations around the world. The Google Maps API powers several services including the Google Maps website, Google Ride Finder, Google Transit, Google Latitude and other third-party websites and mobile apps. While the satellite images for the maps are not updated in real time, the updation in fact happens periodically. However, the service came under sharp criticism from the India government in 2009; when Google's mapping services was found to run several versions depicting disputed regions like Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir differently in regions across the world

Youtube (February 8th, 2005)
Launched by three former PayPal employees on February 14, 2005, the company was acquired by Google in 2006. The website accounts for over 2 billion video views in a day and is ranked as the third most popular website by Alexa Rankings worldwide (it is ranked fourth in India). The website supports 3D videos, and coupled with streaming full length movies, and cricket matches legally while keeping the service free of cost, has ensured user loyalty. A comScore report suggests that YouTube accounts for almost half of all videos streamed India. With technologies like 3G and faster browsing on mobile computing devices, the service will only grow in strength.

For the video lovers, it's all here

For the video lovers, it's all here

Google Earth (June 28th, 2005)
Unlike Google Maps, Google Earth wasn’t built by Google from scratch. Originally developed by Keyhole Inc, as EarthViewer 3D, the service was acquired by Google in 2004 and introduced as Google Earth on June 28, 2005. The 3D view of maps is a result of superimposed images sourced by satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe. The service is available in two versions, the free Google Earth and the Google Earth Pro commercial version. The product does tend to hog on a lot of resources, but offers some fascinating imaging that created quite a rage when it first launched.

A planet-wide map

A planet-wide map

Google Moon (July 20, 2005)
Celebrating the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Google Earth came out with Google Moon on July 20, 2005, that offered satellite images of the Moon.

Google Analytics (November 2005, exact dates not available)
If you are a part of the Internet and have your own monetized or popular website, then you're not new to Google Analytics. It is a free service that provides detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Acquired from Urchin Software Corp. in April 2005, the service was Googlized in November 2005. Since mid-August 2006 the service has been fully available to all users, whether they use Google advertising services or not. The web service is actually more beneficial to keep a tab on marketing and financial activities and is not targeted at webmasters per se. The service is said to be the most widely used website statistics service.

Figuring out where you stand

Figuring out where you stand

An Alexa report suggests that Google Analytics is used for as many as 49.95% of the top 1,000,000 websites. The service is integrated with AdWords as well to ensure that you can keep a track of your account. The Analytical service can track visits via search engines, advertisement links, pay-per-click networks, e-mailers and as well as links embedded into PDF documents. You can add up to 50 profiles on an account, only if you have traffic less than 5 million pageviews per month if your site doesn’t have an AdWords campaign.

Google Docs (March 9th, 2006)
Google Docs was first launched on the 9th of March 2006 and was a result of two separate acquisitions. In 2010, the file storage limit was upped to 1 GB each. While the Word processor Writely was acquired thanks to the acquisition of Upstartle the Spreadsheet feature was picked up by Google in August 2005 from XL2Web by 2Web Technologies. While the service extends support to 15 formats, its implementation on the Android market has been slow. Although you can view files on an Android device, the document editing feature is not yet up to scratch.

Stay in the cloud and access your documents from anywhere

Stay in the cloud and access your documents from anywhere

Google Translate (April 28, 2006)
Launched on April 28, 2006, the machine based translation service created by Google supported only Arabic to English translations. In fact, free Google Chrome plug-in enables you to translate pages into English in real time. As of June 2011, the non-grammatical translation engine supports five additional Indian languages – Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. While Google did announce the shutting down of the Translate API on 1st December 2011, “due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse”, they seem to have caved into pressures now as they have cancelled the plans to discontinue the service. As for the mobile platform, the Google Translate app supports text translations for over 50 languages and speech translation in 15 languages.

Understanding language

Understanding language

Google Street view (US Launch: May 25, 2007; India launch: May 26, 2011)
Although Google launched Street view way back on the May 25, 2007 in the US, the concept came to New Delhi and Bangalore only on May 26, 2011. Since it is rather nascent in its implementation, its fate in India can’t be determined just as yet. However, it has had trouble with implementation in certain regions citing privacy concerns. In May 2011, Google stopped expansion plans for the program inside Germany. In October 2010, Italian officials directed Google to offer signals when their proprietary Street View vehicles would run on the road. In September 2010, Czech Republic banned the service citing security concerns. However, Israel is now open to running the Street View cars in the country if they follow certain restrictions. Street views was incorporated into Google Earth on November 21, 2008 on its version 4.3.

A view that's up close and personal

A view that's up close and personal

Google Sky (27th August 2007)
Starting version 4.2, launched on 27 August 2007, users could see stars and other celestial bodies. Created in collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), Baltimore, the images are courtesy of the Advanced Cameras mounted on the space telescope Hubble. As on 2008, Google came out with a web-based version of Google Sky.
 

Jaiku & Google Buzz (Jaiku: October 9th, 2007; Google Buzz: 9th February 2010)
Following the success of Twitter, Google tried its own hand at the micro-blogging genre with two separate products over a short span of time. On October 9th, 2007 Google acquired Jaiku , but by 2009 they discontinued  development and made the codebase open-source. They shifted focus to Buzz, which launched on 9th February 2010 instead, which was integrated with the users Gmail inbox and let you link activity from other Google products like Picasa, Google Latitude, Google Reader, Google Sidewiki, YouTube and Blogger alongside third party sources like Flickr, FriendFeed, identi.ca and Twitter. You cannot consider Google Buzz a failure technically because it enjoys a large user base, borrowed from Gmail. However, the tech world has been extremely critical of the implementation of the service, and the privacy issue, which make Buzz yet another failed attempt at social networking for Google.


Chrome (on 2nd September, 2008)
In a bid to strengthen its hold over the Internet, Google stepped into the browser war on 2nd September, 2008, with its open-source Chrome browser. Competing with biggies like Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Chrome boasts of features like “isolated” tabs that control full browser crashes and better browsing, that helped it gain 15.51 percent of the global browser market as it entered its third year. Considering the rich repository of plug-ins, that helps you improve your browsing experience, Chrome seems to be hitting all the right notes with users. The browser is now planning to go at loggerheads with Opera as well for the mobile computing space as Google seems to be developing Chrome for Android as well. All we can do for now is wait and watch.

The web browser to become an OS

The web browser to become an OS

Android (23 September 2008)
A slow starter from the company, Google launched the Android OS on 23 September 2008. However it was only after a good six months that the OS was first seen commercially in the world, with the HTC Magic. But that is all a thing of the past. On the verge of launching the latest OS version, a tweet from Google's VP engineering Andy Rubin in June this year read, “There are now over 500,000 Android devices activated every day”. The OS is now ranked 2nd in the European markets as per a comScore report with HTC and Samsung's said to be the top manufacturer for Android-powered device. A Nielsen report on the US smartphone buying trend says, “According to an August survey, 43 percent of all smartphone owners have an Android device. But if you ask only those who got a new smartphone in the past three months what kind of phone they chose, more than half (56%) will tell you they picked an Android device.” Looks like the future for Android-powered smartphone would be as sweet as the OS code names, unless they try something really stupid.

Taking it to the mobile

Taking it to the mobile

Google Mars (February 2, 2009)
Version 5 also brought a separate globe to the foray, depicting planet Mars for research, launched as on February 2, 2009. The images are provided by Mars landers, such as the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Google Wave (May 27, 2009)
Launched on May 27, 2009 as an online collaboration tool on as many as 40 languages, the service didn’t take off as well as they imagined. The service was killed in 2010 but the service is still being developed by to the Apache Software Foundation, as an open source project.

Google Goggles (December 7th, 2009)
Carrying heaps of literature during your outdoor travels seems to be a thing of the past, thanks to the smartphone and mobile computing era. The Google Goggles app for smartphones is an image based engine that was launched by the Google Labs on the December 7th, 2009. The app, available for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry OS gives you information about monuments, famous landmarks, even products based on barcodes. The product, although in its nascent stage of development, is quite a hit with the users.

Google + (June 28, 2011)
Google+ was launched by Google on June 28, 2011, its sixth attempt to cement a place in the social networking arena. The product was launched just like Gmail, using the-by-invites only mode, which made it quite a rage when it was first launched.

The latest in social networking

The latest in social networking

Over these thirteen years, several products came out of the Google stable. While some sunk without a trace (Google Flip, Google TV for instance), many were very well received as well (Google Books, Google Reader, Picasa, Google Translate, Google Earth and many more). If you look at the success graph of the Google services that have been around, the balance seems to tilt in the favor of the products that they’ve built from scratch. Also those that didn’t do well were partly because Google didn’t really give it their all and didn’t develop some products constantly, which ensured that the excitement fizzed out gradually (like in the case of Orkut and Blogger). While most of their acquired services haven’t really taken off as well as they were planned, who knows, Google might as well stand out as a graceful adolescent in the years to come.

It's been an eventful 13 years of the seacrh giant and it seems like they're only going to get more inventive as times goes by. Here's to the next 13, we can't wait to see what comes next.

Publish date: October 8, 2011 1:15 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 8:39 pm

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