Google is celebrating its 15th birthday today. It was begun as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were research students at Stanford University in January 1996. The domain name was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company incorporated on September 4, 1998, says Wikipedia.
When did I first see Google? In 1999? Not later than that. My first impression? The page looked so bare. Just a search box on a white page and nothing else. It was too minimalistic for me.
I was sold on Yahoo at that time. I loved My Yahoo, the personal home page with magically updated feeds from my favourite news sources — Yahoo News, The New York Times, BBC — all for free. Those were the days. Everything was free.
And what did Google have to offer? Just a search engine. I couldn’t get into my head what the fuss was about, why some people just adored the bare white web page which had nothing on it except a search box.
Sure, I needed to search for information. But that’s not what I did most of the time online. I spent more time reading stories from my favourite websites. And I could read all their latest stories by clicking on the links on My Yahoo. It was not just any other page but could be a personal home page where one could check the news, the weather, the email and even dictionaries. My Yahoo offered more content to spend time on than a nothing-but search site.
And then I discovered I could not do without Google, but My Yahoo? Well, there were alternatives. New news readers came out, new personalized home pages, while Google pulled ahead not only as the indispensable search engine but more. Until recently one could do almost everything on Google, including reading the news on the late, lamented Google Reader.
Now Google has a new search algorithm, codenamed Hummingbird, to better cope with the longer, more complex queries it is getting from web users.
Google is trying to keep pace with the evolution of Internet usage. As search queries get more complicated, traditional “Boolean” or keyword-based systems begin deteriorating because of the need to match concepts and meanings in addition to words.
“Remember what it was like to search in 1998? You’d sit down and boot up your bulky computer, dial up on your squawky modem, type in some keywords, and get 10 blue links to websites that had those words,” senior vice-president of research Amit Singhal wrote in a blog post.
“The world has changed so much since then: billions of people have come online, the web has grown exponentially, and now you can ask any question on the powerful little device in your pocket.”
Thank you, Google.