Gina’s Blog


Google’s Not Evil, But It’s A Common Misconception

Posted in Digital Technology by Gina on October 16, 2007
Tags: , , , , ,

 “I once was lost, but now I’m found!”  The Search by John Battle gives you everything you need to know about search engines—how they began, what they’re for, how they operate, who’s who in the search engine industry, etc.    

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for more than ten years, you’re familiar with search and the fact that it retrieves the information that you’re looking for.  If you’re like how I was last week, you are clueless about how they operate.  Battle explains that search engines are composed of three parts, including the crawl, the index, and the query processor.  The crawler is a software program that sends requests out to the Web in order to gather information to be indexed in its database.  The index keeps a file on all sites gathered by the crawler.  Lastly, the query processor takes the information entered into the search box (the query) and uses it to gather appropriate results from the database, finally returning indexed links (search results pages) to the user.

But how did it all start you ask?  People have been conducting searches since humans created a symbolic language, but it has surely evolved.  (I wonder if they still teach the Dewey Decimal System in school?)  Searching (also known as Information Retrieval) started around the time the printing press was established and has grown into the ever changing and growing force on which we have come to depend.  The very first search engine was established in 1990 by a McGill University student.  The system was named Archie after its ability to search archives.  It was structured fairly similar to today’s search engines—a crawler developed an indexed list and users were able to retrieve a listing of relevant material.  The difference was that the index didn’t connect you directly to the documents like today’s search engines.   

Over the life of Internet, many search engines have come and gone, and a few have managed to evolve and stay in the race.  Excite, Yahoo, and GoTo set the foundation for the tools that we use today.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were the brains behind the monster known as Google.  The way I understand it, it initially started as the BackRub project.  Page developed a crawler with an equation that started at Stanford’s home page and was set free to ravage the rest of the Web; their theory being that all sites will eventually connect to each other.  (I see it a lot like the once popular game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.)  What made this engine different was its unique ability to determine the sites that were most relevant to the query.  Linking to other pages played a large role in sites that were deemed most popular or most relevant—sites with the most links directing to their site were among the top performers.  The site started as an internal Stanford site, but expanded extremely quickly.  After scrounging up resources, monetary and otherwise, the duo managed to get off the Stanford Web site in 1996 and announced their new name, Google, to the world.  Google was a play on the word googol, which is 1 followed by 100 zeros.  The logic behind this name was that as the Web grew, they knew that the tool would continue to grow as well and the search engine would be that much more useful.

Its growth has been one of the most astonishing factors in the company’s success.  Page and Brin’s first office space was in a recent graduate, Susan Wojcicki’s home, but the company now resides on Bayshore Parkway in Mountain View, CA on a campus that is envied by employees everywhere—free lunch prepared by chefs, dentists, childcare, scooters…. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.  Aside from my own envy, the company has been surrounded by so much animosity from potential employees that were upset about Google’s highly selective hiring process.  However, there is obviously something to the company’s selectiveness.  Their formula has enabled the company to transition from days of asking for $50,000 for start-up money (actually getting $100,000) to generating gross revenue of about $100 million! 

Speaking of money, it was recently announced that Google controls almost 40% of online advertising.  Obviously, whatever they’re doing, they’re doing right.  To help reassure everyone that they aren’t just some money-making giant Google makes it a point of giving back.  The company’s blog recently discussed one of their latest causes (one that Scoble and Israel would surely appreciate), DonorsChoose.org’s Blogger Challenge, which allows blog readers to contribute to projects at high-need public schools that the Blogger lists on their page.  Google will add an additional $500 to winners in each of the eight categories.  See, Google really does care.

So far, the book is a witty explanation and depiction of search engines.  Before reading, I was a little nervous that the book would provide a long technical definition of what search engines are and how they operate along with neat and clean details about its evolution.  Well, I was surprised in a very good way.  The technical aspects of search engines are explained in a way that you don’t need a computer science degree to understand, and I soon learned that the growth of search engines has not been neat and clean at all.  I’m still trying to get over Google’s adoption of GoTo’s advertisement model that the company once shunned.  The book also reminds us that it’s okay to dream.  With a lot of perseverance, they can come true.  Not only is this a great guide to search, it can also serve as encouragement to all who have encountered stumbling blocks trying to pursue a dream.

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One Response to 'Google’s Not Evil, But It’s A Common Misconception'

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  1. Alex said,

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!


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