Business Unusual

Google is almost 20 years old

From the 1st of September 2017, Google (a subsidiary of Alphabet) will see the other subsidiaries of Alphabet held by XXVI Holdings Inc (pronounced 26, being the roman numerals for the letters in the alphabet). It allows Alphabet to separate the businesses from each other, both for legal reasons and to protect them from potential liabilities.

Google takes its name from Googol which is the second largest named number which is a 1 and one hundred zeros. The largest is a Googolplex, 1 with a Googol zeroes. Googleplex is the name of their famous US headquarters.

Google beat out over a dozen other search engines to become the most popular, in part because of a novel search method called PageRank. While it is an actual rating of a web page it is named after Google co-founder Larry Page. The search engine was conceived while studying at Stanford University and the patent for it belongs to Stanford.

Sergey Brin was the other founder; the name was registered in September 1997 and the site went live in September 1998. Google marks its birthday on the 27th of September now, although you think they might move that to the 26th at some point.

Credit: Wikipedia

The founders had planned to sell the company to another search engine Excite in 1999 for $750 000, they were turned down. Google went on to list in 2004 and is now worth over $550 billion.

Brin and Page were joined by Eric Schmidt in 2001 and the three have steered the company to become one of the most successful ever. When listing in 2004, they agreed to work for 20 years.

Schmidt who is now the Executive Chairman of Alphabet says it was his job to manage chaos at the company not get rid of it. They have some hiring and management practices that have served them well.

With over 70 000 staff, they encourage staff to consider making things 10x better rather than 10% better. Not that most progress is not incremental, just how they approach it. Autonomous cars is an example. They planned to get rid of a steering wheel, not simply use it less.

They also put a greater value on data than bold views. They profess to focus on customers, not competitors and they have a rule that sees them focus 70% on the core business, 20% related to the core and 10% to unrelated projects.

The main google site is the most visited on the planet. The second most visited is one of its sites too: YouTube.

It is the most valuable brand in 2017 replacing Apple (worth $109 billion).

The revenues from search ad results, display ads on websites and YouTube ads account for 99% of their revenues. The US advertising sector is the largest in the world at $190 billion. Google’s global revenues are $90 billion. It did not only conquer the internet, it conquered advertising.

It owns the Android mobile operating system although it is open sourced. It owns Waymo which is a autonomous driving company. It has billion dollar investments in both Uber and Lyft.

It is owns the energy generation for all its power needs and is working on additional energy projects like salt energy storage and kite wind power generation via it X subsidiary.

It is adding artificial intelligence across all its businesses through its subsidiary DeepMind the machine learning algorithm that can learn by observation.

It is automating the home with the Nest home environment controller, smart wifi routers, a smart assistant speaker that can connect with your home smart appliances, replacing your need for a home phone, a TV remote or a radio.

It is investing in healthcare technology and research to allow us to live longer and even slow aging.

And it powers many of the business applications you use every day from email to word processing and cloud storage.

Each year they award $100 million via Google.org to use innovation to solve societal problems.

That is not to say it does not have its detractors. It was fined $2.7 billion by the EU for abusing its search dominance and unfairly promoting its own shopping offers in search results. Google is appealing the decision even though they will comply with it until the appeal is resolved. It is also often cited as a company that pays remarkably little tax.

Also read : What the Google fine might say about the future control of the internet

It is guaranteed that in any 24 hour period you will make use of a Google service or product. The list of products, services, hardware and applications is too long to list here. They add dozens each year and typically kill as many that did not meet expectations.

You could use Google Earth to see the alphabet in the real world, including the letter "S" in the Orange River on our border with Namibia.

Google do have a few easter eggs that you can try including getting a coin flipped or rolling a dice. You can play the vintage game Breakout or Pacman, in fact there are a bunch to try.

The verb to google was first used in a TV show in 2002, in 2006 it was added to the dictionary. The Google effect is a researched and published form of digital amnesia. We are so used to simply searching for something we don’t know, we no longer commit certain information to memory after we find it. Consider how many phone numbers you can recall.

It is hard to imagine what it will achieve in the next two decades, but it is nothing short of incredible what it has managed to achieve in the last 19. Happy birthday, Google.

To celebrate their 19th birthday, Google posted a special Google Doodle that lists the previous game doodles, so more easter eggs.


This article first appeared on 702 : Google is almost 20 years old


CapeTalk welcomes all comments that are constructive, contribute to discussions in a meaningful manner and take stories forward.

However, we will NOT condone the following:

  • Racism (including offensive comments based on ethnicity and nationality)
  • Sexism
  • Homophobia
  • Religious intolerance
  • Cyber bullying
  • Hate speech
  • Derogatory language
  • Comments inciting violence.

We ask that your comments remain relevant to the articles they appear on and do not include general banter or conversation as this dilutes the effectiveness of the comments section.

We strive to make the CapeTalk community a safe and welcoming space for all.

CapeTalk reserves the right to: 1) remove any comments that do not follow the above guidelines; and, 2) ban users who repeatedly infringe the rules.

Should you find any comments upsetting or offensive you can also flag them and we will assess it against our guidelines.

CapeTalk is constantly reviewing its comments policy in order to create an environment conducive to constructive conversations.

Read More
Things we invented in 2017

Things we invented in 2017

No, this is not about Bell Pottinger or Donald Trump, but actual innovations that will affect us in the future.

The drone and satellite could become as important as the tractor to farmers

The drone and satellite could become as important as the tractor to farmers

Farming advances will add precision, both to reduce waste and costs while improving yield and being kinder to the environment.

Robots are coming! They're running, jumping and doing the backflip to get here

Robots are coming! They're running, jumping and doing the backflip to get here

A robot doing a single task is not new. The kind that can do tasks on their own? That can be a bit more scary.

Grass is always greener where you water it. That is the problem

Grass is always greener where you water it. That is the problem

We may love the sight of a manicured green lawn but, for most of South Africa, it is just not a good use of water anymore.

Electricity prices getting you down? How does free sound?

Electricity prices getting you down? How does free sound?

Suppliers of renewable energy in Germany reduced electricity prices to zero recently.

Treat your personal data like cash (because that's what it is)

Treat your personal data like cash (because that's what it is)

You can't be 100% safe online, but you can be safer than you are now.

Popular articles
[LISTEN] 'We are dealing with an outbreak of Listeriosis' - Dr Thomas

[LISTEN] 'We are dealing with an outbreak of Listeriosis' - Dr Thomas

Head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the NICD Dr Thomas says that Listeriosis is problematic because it isn’t notifiable.

Publisher saves South African students billions with free textbooks

Publisher saves South African students billions with free textbooks

This year we're going to hit a million downloads of free textbooks in SA - James van der Westhuizen, country manager for Bookboon.

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

Steinhoff money woes and why you should care

The company lost around R100 billion leaving the JSE reeling in one of the biggest private sector business scandals.

Few retirement funds unaffected by Steinhoff implosion (i.e. you just got had)

Few retirement funds unaffected by Steinhoff implosion (i.e. you just got had)

Your money, and Steinhoff… Bruce Whitfield interviews Certified Financial Planner Peter Calitz.

‘There were clear warning signs at Steinhoff. All of which fund managers missed’

‘There were clear warning signs at Steinhoff. All of which fund managers missed’

The Money Show’s Bruce Whitfield interviews Sygnia Group CEO Magda Wierzycka.

Zille: 40 000 affordable housing units in the pipeline for WC

Zille: 40 000 affordable housing units in the pipeline for WC

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says the government plays a crucial role in the provision of affordable housing in the province.

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

How businessman Max Lichaba struck gold with his jewellery company

Entrepreneur Max Lichaba built his own empire and is the CEO of Lichaba Creations and several other businesses. This is his story.