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The evolution of Google: 20 years and counting

  • 24 Sep 2018

As the company marks 20 years, it has grown from simply a better way to explore the internet to a search engine so woven into daily life its name has become a verb.

Silicon Valley legend has it that Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page offered to sell the company early on for a million dollars or so, but no deal came together. ( Reuters Archive )

Google is marking its 20th anniversary with an event in San Francisco on Monday devoted to the future of online search, and promising a few surprise announcements.

The company has grown, with the passage of time,  from simply a better way to explore the internet to a search engine so woven into daily life its name has become a verb.

It is now part of the most popular and best-performing tech companies in the US called the FAANG (Facebook, Apple Inc, Amazon.com, Netflix and Google) group and was also listed in 2018 as the third largest company in the world in terms of market value at $766.4 billion.

Google was launched in September 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin – two Stanford University students – in a garage rented in the Northern California city of Menlo Park. 

The name is a play on the mathematical term "googol," which refers to the number one followed by 100 zeros. 

Google reportedly ran for a while on computer servers at Stanford, where a version of the search engine had once been tested.

Here's a look at the evolution of the Google search engine's homepage during the past two decades:

Diversification of services

In August 2004, Google went public on the stock market with shares priced at $85. 

Meanwhile, it bought the 18-month-old YouTube video sharing platform in 2006 in a deal valued at $1.65 billion, which seemed astronomical at the time but has since proven shrewd as entertainment continues to make its move online.

The company hit a revenue mother lode after it developed tools that target online ads based on what users reveal and allow marketers to only pay if people click on their advertising links.

Shares in the multi-billion dollar company are now trading above $1,000.

Over the years, it has launched an array of products including Maps, Gmail, the Chrome internet browser and an Android mobile device operating system that is free to smartphone or tablet makers.

Google also makes premium Pixel smartphones to showcase Android, which dominates the market with handsets made by an array of manufacturers.

The company also began pumping money into an X lab devoted to technology "moon shots" such as internet-linked glasses, self-driving cars, and using high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote locations.

Some of those have evolved into companies, such as the Waymo self-driving car unit. But Google has also seen failures, as in the case of the much-maligned Google Glass eyewear.

Also, the Google+ social network, launched to compete with Facebook, has seen little meaningful traction.

In October 2015, corporate restructuring saw the creation of parent company Alphabet, making subsidiaries of Google, Waymo, health sciences unit Verily and other properties.

Google is also now a major player in artificial intelligence with its digital assistant infused into smart speakers and more. Its AI rivals include Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

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