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Trish O'Loughlin
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Google Celebrates its 18th Birthday! (And There’s a Lot to Celebrate)

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It’s hard to believe that the world’s most popular search engine made the transition into ‘adulthood’ yesterday, but just like an excited teenager wielding his/her first legal glass of champagne, the multi-billion-dollar tech giant has officially hit that 18-year-old milestone with a justified sense of excitement. After all, Google has achieved a ridiculous amount in just under two decades of existence – from totally transforming the way information is disseminated to settling dinner party debates – so in true birthday style, let’s raise a toast to one of the world’s biggest internet companies and reflect on all it has achieved over the years.

September 4, 1998: The birth of Google (kind of). The concept of Google was conjured by the masterminds of Larry Page and Sergey Brin in their Stanford dorm room around the year 1997, when the entrepreneurial pair first registered the Google.com domain. However, the company lists its incorporation date as being in 1998, and has decided to delegate September 27 as its birthday (for now, anyway – the date has shifted around quite a few times since its birth). Why September 27, you ask? Well, it coincides with the announcement of the record number of pages that the search engine was indexing.

August 30, 1998: The first Google-doodle appears, serving as an out-of-office message. When Page and Brin decided to take some time off to go to the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, they devised a creative notification for their users: they placed the music festival’s iconic logo behind the second “o” of Google’s homepage. This “comical message to Google users that the founders were ‘out of office’” soon evolved into a daily customisation of the logo to celebrate notable events around the world.

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April 1, 2000: Google plays its first April Fool’s prank. Long before Ashton Kutcher graced MTV, Google unveiled ‘MentalPlex’ – a global-reaching gag that inspired many more April Fool’s Day pranks later down the track. Basically, Google introduced a new form of fake technology that invited users to take off their hat and glasses so the search engine could ‘read their minds’ to determine what they wanted to search for. This combined with Google-doodle showcased the company’s fun and playful personality from an early age.

May 9, 2000: Google learns its first (multi-lingual) words. It was on this day that the first 10 language versions of Google were released: German, French, Finnish, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch and Danish, highlighting Google’s fast-reaching universal success. These days, the search engine is available in more than 150 languages.

October 23, 2000: AdWords is launched. Harnessing a total of 350 advertisers, Google AdWords crystallised into being on this day. By implementing a self-serve keyword bidding system, AdWords effectively remoulded the trajectory of online advertising, thereby marking a strong cornerstone for its future success. Nowadays, AdWords has a base of more than 1 million advertisers and is worth a massive $60 billion-and-counting.

July 2001: Google Images turns the search engine into more than a text churner. Realising the need to explore new ways to deliver information, Google introduced Google Images four years after its birth, offering access to a rich archive of 250 million images. Today, the search engine offers the most comprehensive image search on the web.

September 2002: Audiences are introduced to Google News. Newspaper, radio, television…internet? That’s right, Google was a key player in elevating a brand new platform upon which the latest information on current events was delivered to the public. By taking the search options an extra step further, the tech company launched Google News with a total of 4,000 news sources – today, that figure currently stands at more than 50,000 news sources.

December 2003: Launch of Google Print (aka Google Books). The next step for the search engine giant was to marry traditional paper formats with the digital world. Towards the end of 2003, Google’s newest feature was the indexation of excerpts from books, which triggered digital scanning partnerships with libraries the following year. More than 20 million books currently feature on Google.

April 1, 2004: Gmail is created. While the date coincided with April Fool’s Day, this time Google’s latest announcement was no joke: the company launched what quickly became the effervescent Gmail. The idea of the search kingpin transitioning to email was initially a little startling for users, but the free service revolutionised traditional tools like Microsoft’s Hotmail, ticking many boxes for consumers that had been left neglected up until this point.

February 2005: Google Maps goes live. Shortly after opening new offices in India, Google launched its infamous Maps tool, complete with satellite views and directions. The extra service has now become one of the handiest instruments of the digital age.

June 2005: The boom of the mobile device triggers Google Mobile Web Search. In order to better cater to its users, Google decided to adopt a mobile-friendly format specially designed for viewing search results on smartphones. While many businesses are still to catch on to this trend even now, Google was one of the first companies to acknowledge the importance of the mobile device and to appropriate its methods to accommodate for the soaring trend.

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June 2005: Google Earth is unveiled. The search giant didn’t just stop with Mobile Web Search; it also released its famous satellite imagery-based mapping service during this period. The new feature enabled users to take a virtual journey to anywhere in the world, and has since been downloaded more than 1 billion times.

November 2005: The launch of Google Analytics transforms the way marketers view website traffic. 2005 was evidently a big year for Google, with the search engine adding a feature that essentially helped to cement the pathway for a brand new industry: digital marketing. Now regarded as the most widely used web analytics service on the internet, Google Analytics tracks and reports traffic, giving users an in-depth insight into how pages are performing.

April 2006: Google Translate launches, offering translations between Arabic and English. Once again acknowledging its global growth, Google came up with the idea of incorporating a translation tool into its cavalcade of services in 2006. Google Translate now caters for more than 80 languages, providing real-time visual translations.

May 2006: The release of Google Trends changes the way information is organised. This new service was designed to enable a visualisation of the popularity of searches over time. Users can find out what’s trending near them, while businesses can gauge customer search behaviour based on real-time data. All in all, Google Trends was a pretty nifty device to add to the search engine’s growing toolkit.

May 2007: Google takes new strides towards universal search. By the year 2007, Google shifted things up again by integrating everything – images, books, news, video and local results – together under the same search result, offering a more comprehensive and streamlined service for users.

September 2, 2008: Google Chrome becomes available for download. The freeware web browser took some time in the making to create, and its developers certainly harboured a degree of apprehension. However, it all paid off: Google Chrome now boasts more than 750 million users.

February 2009: Google launches Voice Search on Android. Instead of tiring out those thumbs, this newest tool to grace the Google empire enabled users to conduct searches by voice, thereby transforming the way mobile web surfing works.

September 2010: Google Instant is created to match the speed of the digital sphere. As society became more and more accustomed to receiving information in a rapid manner, Google’s brainchildren decided to launch Google Instant, designed to bring results up the second users punch away into the engine’s search bar.

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May 2011: Google hits one billion unique users. While most teenagers are busy popping zits in the mirror, Google approached its 13th birthday by marking a pretty prominent milestone – collecting a whopping one billion fans.

April 2012: The launch of Google Drive changes the way files are maintained. With Google Drive came the ability for users to effectively create, share, collaborate and keep their videos, photos, Google documents and PDFs all in the one place. No more sifting around to find those orphaned files that had escaped into a never-ending vortex!

June 2013: Project Loon targets rural, remote and underserved areas. Google unveiled a new balloon-powered Internet access service to help connect disadvantaged areas, and to generate crisis response communications. With the unstoppable saturation of the internet, the newest concept was warmly welcomed by digital consumers all over.

September 2015: Google changes up its logo and branding to reflect its comprehensive suite of services. With armfuls of accolades, the time was right for Google to adopt a new logo last year in order to show how much the brand has grown. Over the years, our favourite search engine has come to reckon with a world of seamless computing: it has continually implemented consumer-driven services that operate across a never-ending scope of devices, all of which are now powered by many different kinds of input – from typing to touching to talking. Frankly, we can’t wait to see what else the ever-evolving, innovation-pumping tech giant has up its digital sleeve.

Happy Birthday Google!

 

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By Trish O'Loughlin


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