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Google Inc.
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Google, Inc.

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, by MultiMedia

Type Public (NASDAQ: GOOG)
Founded Mountain View, California (1998)
Location Mountain View, California, USA
Key people Eric E. Schmidt, CEO/Director
Sergey Brin, Technology President
Larry E. Page, Products President
Industry Internet
Products List of Google services and tools
Revenue $3.19 billion USD (2004)
Employees 4,989 (September 30, 2005)
Website www.google.com

Google.com front page
Google.com front page

Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) is a U.S. public corporation, initially established as a privately held corporation in 1998, which designed and currently manages the Internet Google search engine. Google's corporate headquarters is at the "Googleplex" in Mountain View, California and employs almost 5,000 workers. Dr. Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Novell, was named the Chief Executive Officer when co-founder Larry Page stepped down. The company's overview web page states that "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."



Google began as a research project in January 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Ph.D. students at Stanford. They developed the hypothesis that a search engine based on analysis of the relationships between Web sites would produce improved results over the basic techniques then in use. (At the time, other search engines ranked results essentially based on how many times the search term appeared on a page.) It was originally nicknamed BackRub because the system checked backlinks to estimate a site's importance. (A small search engine called RankDex was already exploring a similar strategy.) Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant Web pages must be the most relevant pages associated with the search, Larry Page and Sergey Brin tested their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. Originally the search engine used the Stanford website with the domain google.stanford.edu (see the Internet Archive Wayback Machine search for http://google.stanford.edu). The domain google.com was registered on September 15, 1997. They formally incorporated their company, Google Inc., on September 7, 1998 at a friend's garage in Menlo Park, California.

In March 1999, the company moved into offices at 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, home to a number of other noted Silicon Valley technology startups. Google received a big break in 1999 when one of the most popular search engines, AltaVista, relaunched itself as a user Web entry point, or portal. This unexpected change alienated part of AltaVista's user base. Google quickly outgrew its University Avenue home. After outgrowing two subsequent sites, the company settled into a complex of buildings (referred to by some as "The Googleplex") in Mountain View at 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, in 2003.

The Google search engine attracted a loyal following among the growing number of Internet users. They were attracted to its simple, uncluttered, clean design — a competitive advantage to attract users who did not wish to enter searches on web pages filled with visual distractions. This appearance, while imitating the early AltaVista, had behind it Google's unique search capabilities. In 2000, Google began selling advertisements associated with the search keyword to produce enhanced search results for the user. This strategy was important for increasing advertising revenue, which is based upon the number of "hits" users make upon ads. The ads were text-based in order to maintain an uncluttered page design and to maximize page loading speed. It also only cost a very small amount per click to the websites that advertised this way. The model of selling keyword advertising was originally pioneered by Goto.com (renamed Overture, and now Yahoo! Search Marketing). While many of its dot-com rivals failed in the new Internet marketplace, Google quietly rose in stature while generating revenue.

U.S. Patent 6,285,999 describing Google's ranking mechanism (PageRank) was granted on September 4, 2001. The patent was officially assigned to Stanford University and lists Lawrence Page as the inventor.

In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, owner of Blogger, a pioneering and leading weblog hosting Web site. Some analysts considered the acquisition inconsistent with Google's business model. However, the acquisition secured the company's competitive ability to use information gleaned from blog postings to improve the speed and relevance of articles contained in a companion product to the search engine, Google News.

At its peak in early 2004, Google handled upwards of 84.7 percent of all search requests on the World Wide Web through its Web site and through its partnerships with other Internet clients like Yahoo!, AOL, and CNN. In February 2004 Yahoo! dropped its partnership with Google in order to provide users at its site independent search results and to maintain their loyalty. Google lost user share of the search market. Yet Yahoo!'s move highlighted Google's own distinctiveness and today the verb "to google" has entered a number of languages first as a slang verb and now as a standard word meaning, "to perform a web search".

Google's declared code of conduct is "Don't Be Evil", a phrase which they went so far as to include in their prospectus (aka "red herring" or "S-1") for their IPO, noting "We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served — as shareholders and in all other ways — by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains."

Google's Halloween 2005 Logo

The Google site includes humorous features such as cartoon modifications of the Google logo to recognize special occasions and anniversaries, known as "Google Doodles". Not only may decorative drawings be attached to the logo, but as well the font design may mimic a fictional or humorous language such as the Star Trek Klingon and Leet. The logo is notorious among web users for April Fool's Day tie-ins and jokes about the company.

Analysts speculate that Google's response to Yahoo! will be to continue to make technical and visual enhancements to personalized searches, using the personal data that is gathering from Orkut, Gmail, and Froogle to produce unique results based on the user. Frequently, new Google enhancements or products appear in its inventory. Products and demos Google Labs, the experimental section of Google.com help Google maximize its relationships with its users by including them in the beta development, design and testing stages of new products and enhancements of already existing ones.

Google's Halloween 2005 Logo
Google's Halloween 2005 Logo

Original Hardware

The original hardware used by Google included:

  • Sun Ultra II with dual 200MHz processors, and 256MB of RAM. This was the main machine for the original Backrub system.
  • 2 x 300 MHz Dual Pentium II Servers donated by Intel, they included 512MB of RAM and 9 x 9GB hard drives between the two. It was on these that the main search ran.
  • F50 IBM RS6000 donated by IBM, included 4 processors, 512MB of memory and 8 x 9GB hard drives.
  • Two additional boxes included 3 x 9GB hard drives and 6 x 4GB hard drives respectively (the original storage for Backrub). These were attached to the Sun Ultra II.
  • IBM disk expansion box with another 8 x 9GB hard drives donated by IBM.
  • Homemade disk box which contained 10 x 9GB SCSI hard drives

Logo Evolutions

The Google logo has changed over the years. The following are the official Google logos.

Google's Logo 1996
Late 1996
Google's Logo 1999
1998 - July 1999
Google's Logo - Present
July 1999 - Present

Google is also known for its innovative holiday logos; see their logo archive. A website has been created that relives these imaginative logos by displaying them randomly on every page-load: Holiday Google.

The site logoogle contains images users have made about google


The name "Google" is a play on the word "Googol", which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nine-year-old nephew of U.S. mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by one hundred zeros. As a further play on this, Google's headquarters are referred to as "the Googleplex" — a googolplex being 1 followed by a googol of zeros, and the HQ being a complex of buildings (cf. multiplex, cineplex, etc).

The name has also been interpreted as a merging of the words "Go ogle", though this is widely accepted to be coincidental. The term appears in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake: "who thought him a Fonar all, feastking of shellies by googling Lovvey". To "throw a googly" means to ask a difficult or unanswerable question in British slang, a googly being a tricky ball in the game of cricket. Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (1972) allows the verb "to google" from this, and the phrase has come to be synonymous with "to search for on the Internet".

Financing and IPO

The first funding for Google as a company was secured in the form of a $100,000 check from Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, made out to a corporation which didn't yet exist. After a frantic few weeks, this was topped up to give an initial investment of almost $1 million. Around six months later, a much larger round of funding was announced, with the major investors being rival venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital.

In October 2003, while discussing a possible IPO (Initial Public Offering of shares), Microsoft approached the company about a possible partnership or merger; no such deal ever materialized. In January 2004, Google announced the hiring of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to arrange an IPO. That IPO (one of the most anticipated in history) was projected to raise as much as $4 billion. According to a banker involved in the transaction, the deal would yield an estimated $12 billion market capitalization for Google.

On April 29, 2004, Google made an S-1 form SEC filing for an IPO to raise as much as USD $2,718,281,828 (with a touch of mathematical humor as e = 2.718281828...). April 29th was the 120th day of 2004, and according to section 12(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, "a company must file financial and other information with the SEC 120 days after the close of the year in which the company reaches $10 million in assets and/or 500 shareholders, including people with stock options. Google has stated in its Annual filing for 2004 that every one of its 3,021 employees, "except temporary employees and contractors, are also equity holders, with significant collective employee ownership", so Google would have needed to make its financial information public by filing them with the SEC regardless of whether or not they intended to make a public offering. As Google stated in the filing, their "growth has reduced some of the advantages of private ownership. By law, certain private companies must report as if they were public companies. The deadline imposed by this requirement accelerated our decision." The SEC filing revealed that Google turned a profit every year since 2001 and earned a profit of $105.6 million on revenues of $961.8 million during 2003.

In May 2004, Google officially cut Goldman Sachs from the IPO, leaving Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston as the joint underwriters. They chose the unconventional way of allocating the initial offering through an auction (specifically, a "Dutch auction"), so that "anyone" would be able to participate in the offering. The smallest required account balances at most authorized online brokers that are allowed to participate in an IPO, however, are around $100,000. In the run-up to the IPO the company was forced to slash the price and size of the offering, but the process did not run into any technical difficulties or result in any significant legal challenges. The initial offering of shares was sold for $85 a piece. The public valued it at $100.34 at the close of the first day of trading which saw 22,351,900 shares change hands.

Before Google initiated its initial public offering, Larry Page & Sergey Brin faced legal action for giving Playboy an interview about themselves and Google. The SEC (Security & Exchange Commission) forbids giving out information pertaining to a company's specifications before an IPO is launched.

After some initial stumbles, Google's initial public offering took place on August 19, 2004. 19,605,052 shares were offered at a price of $85 per share. Of that, 14,142,135 (another mathematical reference as √2 = 1.4142135...) were floated by Google and 5,462,917 by selling stockholders. The sale raised $1.67 billion, of which approximately $1.2 billion went to Google. The vast majority of Google's 271 million shares remained under Google's control. The IPO gave Google a market capitalization of more than $23 billion. Many of Google's employees became instant paper millionaires. Yahoo!, a competitor of Google, also benefited from the IPO because it owns 2.7 million shares of Google. The company was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the ticker symbol GOOG.

On August 18, 2005 (one year after the initial IPO), Google announced that it would sell 14,159,265 (a mathematical joke, see pi) more shares of its stock to raise money. The move would double Google's cash stockpile to $7 billion. Google said it would use the money for "acquisitions of complementary businesses, technologies or other assets".


Since the IPO, Google's stock market capitalization has risen greatly and the stock price has more than quadrupled. On August 19, 2004 the number of shares outstanding was 172.85 million while the "free float" was 19.60 million (which makes 89% held by insiders). In January 2005 the shares outstanding was up 100 million to 273.42 million, 53% of that was held by insiders which made the float 127.70 million (up 110 million shares from the first trading day). The two founders are said to hold almost 30% of the outstanding shares. The actual voting power of the insiders is much higher, however, as Google has a dual class stock structure in which each Class B share gets ten votes compared to each Class A share getting one. Page says in the prospectus that Google has "a dual class structure that is biased toward stability and independence and that requires investors to bet on the team, especially Sergey and me." The company has not reported any treasury stock holdings as of the Q3 2004 report.

On June 1, 2005, Google shares gained nearly 4 percent after Credit Suisse First Boston raised its price target on the stock to $350. On the same day, rumors circulated in the financial community that Google would soon be included in the S&P 500. (Source: Google Shares Rise on New Price Target. L.A.Times. URL accessed on June 1, 2005.) When companies are first listed on the S&P 500 they typically experience a bump in share price. On June 7, 2005, Google was valued at nearly $52 billion, making it one of the world's biggest media companies by stock market value.

With Google's increased size comes more competition from large mainstream technology companies. One such example is the rivalry between Microsoft and Google . Microsoft has been touting its MSN Search engine to counter Google's competitive position. Furthermore, the two companies are increasingly offering overlapping services, such as webmail (Gmail vs. Hotmail), search (both online and local desktop searching), and other applications (for example, Microsoft's Virtual Earth competes with Google Earth). Some have even suggested that in addition to an Internet Explorer replacement Google is designing its own Linux based operating system called Google OS to directly compete with Microsoft Windows. Rumors of a Google browser are fueled by the fact that Google is the owner of the domain name "gbrowser.com". This corporate feud is most directly expressed in hiring offers and defections. Many Microsoft employees who worked on Internet Explorer have left to work for Google. This feud boiled over into the courts when Kai-Fu Lee, a former vice-president of Microsoft, quit Microsoft to work for Google. Microsoft sued to stop his move by citing Lee's non-compete contract (he had access to much sensitive information regarding Microsoft's plans in China). The case is still in the courts.

While Google is the #1 search engine, the company struggles to keep up with rivals such as the well known Yahoo. Although Google and Yahoo differ greatly in the services they offer, Google is trying to redefine itself from an Internet search company to an Internet media company, similar to Yahoo!. Google is trying to become a jack of all trades for the Internet. They are foraying into other businesses which other companies have recently dominated. On June 21, 2005 Google announced it has plans to release a pay service and a classified ads service, to rival companies like eBay .

During the third quarter 2005 Google Conference Call, Eric Schmidt said, "We don't do the same thing as everyone else does. And so if you try to predict our product strategy by simply saying well so and so has this and Google will do the same thing, it's almost always the wrong answer. We look at markets as they exist and we assume they are pretty well served by their existing players. We try to see new problems and new markets using the technology that others use and we build."


Prior to the IPO offering, typical salaries at Google were considered within the industry to be quite low. For instance, some system administrators earned no more than $33,000 — while $40,000 at that time was considered to be low by Bay Area employment market levels. Nevertheless, Google's excellent stock performance following the IPO has enabled these early employees to be competitively compensated by participation in the corporation's remarkable equity growth. In 2005 Google has implemented other employee incentives such as the Founder's award, as well making higher salary offers to new employees.

Beyond monetary compensation, Google's workplace amenities, culture, global popularity, stellar prospects (relative to most Bay Area companies), and strong brand recognition continues to attract far more applicants than there are positions available. (It is estimated that less than one job offer is made per thousand resumes submitted.) Google reportedly employs one in-house legal recruiter just to assist the legal department in evaluating the high volume of resumes from attorneys seeking to join the corporation.

A license plate seen in the Googleplex parking lot
A license plate seen in the Googleplex parking lot


Position: name, age, compensation in USD (as of June 2005)

  • CEO: Eric E. Schmidt, 50, $1 see
  • CFO: George Reyes, 51, $781K
  • President of Technology: Sergey Brin, 31, $1 see
  • President of Products: Larry E. Page, 32, $1 see
  • Sr. VP of Worldwide Sales: Omid Kordestani, 41, $572K
  • VP of Corp. Development, Secretary and Gen. Counsel: David C. Drummond, 42, $776K

Founders Brin and Page reportedly earned $1 billion in 2004, but after the IPO in Aug 2004, their compensation is reported in SEC filings annually. Page, Brin, and Schmidt have all declined recent offers of bonuses and increases in compensation by Google's board of directors. Institutional Shareholder Services ranked Google's corporate governance dead last in the list of members of the Standard & Poor's 500.

According to the Forbes 400 list (2005), the combined net worth of Larry Page and Sergey Brin is $22 billion US. But due to the recent surge in stock price (April 2005-June 2005), their net worth is significantly higher. When recorded on the Forbes 400, Google's stock was around $111. In late 2005 Google shares were valued at $400. Page and Brin, however, had sold $2 billion before some of the largest stock gains.


Research analysts covering Google Inc. See also GOOG: Star Analysts for GOOGLE - Yahoo! Finance

  • Mark Mahaney (Citigroup Investment Research)
  • John Tinker (Thinkequity Partners)
  • Michael Gallant (CIBC World Markets)
  • Steve Weinstein (Pacific Crest Securities)
  • Imran Khan (J.P. Morgan Chase)
  • Heath Terry (Credit Suisse First Boston)
  • Marianne Wolk (Susquehanna Financial Group)
  • Nafi Bekteshi (SOS Group)


Google's services are run on several server farms, each consisting of many thousand low-cost commodity computers running customized versions of Linux. While the company does not provide detailed information about its hardware, it was estimated in 2004 that they were using over 60,000 Linux machines. See Google platform for the details.

Corporate culture


Google is known for its relaxed corporate culture, reminiscent of the Dot-com boom. Google's corporate philosophy is based on many casual principles including: "You can make money without doing evil", "You can be serious without a suit" and "Work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun." A complete list of corporate fundamentals is available on Google's Web site . The company encourages equality within corporate levels. Twice a week there is a roller hockey game in the company parking lot.

"Twenty percent" time

Every Google engineer is encouraged to spend 20 percent (20%) of their work time on projects that interest them. Some of these end up as Google services, notably Adsense/Adwords (which provide the majority of the company's revenue), as well as Gmail, Google News and Orkut.


Google's headquarters is called the Googleplex. The lobby is decorated with a piano, lava lamps, and a real-time projection of current search queries. The hallways are full of exercise balls and bicycles. Each employee has access to the corporate recreation center. Recreational amenities are scattered throughout the campus, and include a workout room with weights and rowing machines, locker rooms, washers and dryers, a massage room, assorted video games, Foosball, a baby grand piano, a pool table, and ping pong. In addition to the rec room, there are snack rooms stocked with various cereals, gummy bears, toffee, licorice, cashews, yogurt, carrots, fresh fruit, and dozens of different drinks including fresh juice, soda, and make-your-own cappuccino. After eating, people can relieve themselves on luxurious digitally controlled toilets similar to Japanese toilets.

Many people have suggested that after Google's IPO the corporate culture will not be able to stay so "fun" and focused on the future. The company may be required to answer to its new shareholders who may press the company to reduce employee benefits and to focus on short term advances. Also, it may be more challenging for the company to maintain a collegial atmosphere when approximately 1,000 (30%) of the employees are paper-millionaires. In a report given to potential investors, co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page promised that the IPO would not change the company's culture. Later Mr. Page said, "We think a lot about how to maintain our culture and the fun elements."

In 2005, articles in The New York Times and other news sources began suggesting that Google had lost its anti-corporate, no evil philosophy. The New York Times article was headlined, "Relax, Bill Gates; It's Google's Turn as the Villain" .

As of January 2006, the acting C.F.O. is Caitlin F. Andeerwood.

Google partnerships

On Sept 28 Google announced a partnership with NASA which would involve Google building an R&D center at NASA's Ames Research Center. As reported by SearchEnginejournal.com, NASA and Google were said to be planning to work together on a variety of areas, including large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry. The new building would also include labs, offices, and housing for Google engineers.

Google also has a partnership with Sun Microsystems to help share and distribute each other's technologies . As part of the partnership Google will hire employees to help the open source office program OpenOffice.org.

Google has an unknown partnership with the Mozilla Foundation. Google is looking for software engineers to join them in collaborative development on the Firefox browser. This is confirmed by a job listing posted on Google. They also offer a download of Firefox with the Google Toolbar pre-installed.

Google's Acquisitions


  • Feb 2001: Deja (the Usenet archive, not the company) was acquired, and was incorporated to become part of the re-launched Google Groups.
  • Sep 2001: Google acquired Outride Inc. 


  • Feb 2003: Google acquired Pyra Labs, a weblogging provider and owner of Blogger.
  • Apr 2003: Neotonic Software was acquired as part of Google's plan to bring its CRM technology in house.
  • Apr 2003: Applied Semantics was acquired  for $102 Million.
  • Sep 2003: Kaltix was acquired to develop and launch Google Personal.
  • Oct 2003: Sprinks was acquired to enhance Google's Adwords and AdSense program.
  • Oct 2003: Google acquired Genius Labs, another web logging provider.


  • Apr 2004: Ignite Logic was acquired.
  • Jun 2004: Google made a $10M investment into partial ownership of Baidu.
  • Jul 2004: Picasa was acquired to provide picture management tools to Blogger.
  • Oct 2004: Keyhole was acquired to provide the core mapping capabilities in Google Maps and Google Earth.
  • Sept-Dec 2004, Google revealed in its annual 10-K filing that it had acquired 2 Silicon Valley start-up companies: ZipDash and Where2. The technology provided by ZipDash was used to develop and launch Google Ride Finder. Where2 was a mapping software provider.


  • Mar 2005: Web analytics tools provider Urchin Software Corporation was acquired.
  • May 2005: DodgeBall, a social networking software provider for mobile devices, was acquired.
  • Jul 2005: Google, in combination with Goldman Sachs, and the Hearst Corp., invests a total of $100 Million into Current Communications Group.
  • Jul 2005: Google announced in its Q2 quarterly conference call that it had acquired Akwan Information Technologies as a part of its plan to open an R&D office and expand its presence into Latin and South America.
  • Aug 2005: Google acquires Android Inc., a software provider for mobile devices
  • September 28: both Google and Ames Research Center disclosed details to a long-term research partnership. In addition to pooling engineering talent, Google plans to build a 1-million square foot facility on the ARC campus.
  • Dec 2005: Google acquires a 5% stake in Time Warner's AOL.

Criticism and controversy

Copyright issues

A number of organizations have used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to demand that Google remove references to allegedly copyrighted material on other sites. Google typically handles this by removing the link as requested and including a link to the complaint in the search results.

There have also been complaints that Google's web cache feature violates copyright. However, Google provides mechanisms for requesting that caching be disabled (which Google respects; it also honors the robots.txt file which is another mechanism that allows operators of a website to request that part or all of their site not be included in search engine results).

On June 2005, Google Watch revealed the details of a contract between the University of Michigan and Google to create digitized copies of the copyrighted materials stored at the University's library. This contract is part of Google Print's effort to digitize millions of books and make the full text searchable. There are claims that it is a violation of copyright laws to use copyrighted material for profit by placing search ads beside the search results of these digitized books. Also, Google is setting a new precedent by making digital copies of copyrighted material on a wide scale without explicit permission from copyright holders. Meanwhile, Google claims that it is in compliance with all existing and historical applications of copyright laws regarding books. The contract between Google and the U. of Michigan does make it clear that Google will provide only excerpts of copyright text in a search. The contract says that it will comply with "fair use", an exemption in copyright law that allows people to reproduce portions of text of copyrighted material for research purposes.

Dispute with Agence France Presse

In March 2005, Agence France Presse (AFP) sued Google for $17.5 million, alleging that Google News infringed on its copyright because "Google includes AFP's photos, stories and news headlines on Google News without permission from Agence France Presse."  It was also alleged that Google ignored a cease and desist order, though Google counters that it has opt-out procedures which AFP could have followed but did not.

It is possible that AFP will make additional arguments in court that it has not yet made in public, but currently, many pundits are confused by the decision to sue  because Google does not display the full article on its site, provides a link to one of AFP's 600 online clients such as Singapore's Channel NewsAsia (which presumably benefits AFP because more people view the article and advertising), and because the articles are available via the providers' websites regardless of Google's actions. It was argued that had AFP wanted to prevent free use of its articles, it should have asked its providers to require subscriptions rather than suing Google. Additionally, "in 2002, a federal appeals court ruled that Web sites may reproduce and post 'thumbnail' or downsized versions of copyrighted photographs," so Google News' thumbnails are likely legal. Still, AFP argues that the headline and first sentence of an article constitutes the "heart" of the work and that reproducing it is copyright infringement.

According to the Canada Free Press, "Google Inc. is now attempting to remove all postings of Agence-France Presse material from its site, although AFP spokesmen say that even if this is done, the lawsuit will continue... It seems that the basis of the lawsuit is just the abstract notion of copyright without any real damages to justify the action." The article concluded "It would be a sad day for those who look to the Internet for news if AFP is successful in limiting what Google can display... AFP's lawsuit, if successful, is bound to have a major impact on how news is delivered on the Internet."

The lawsuit's outcome will likely depend on whether Google can successfully argue that its use of AFP's material constitutes "fair use" under copyright law. Google could even argue that it "adds value" to AFP's news without harming the French news wholesaler.

Lawsuit by Authors Guild

On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild, a group that represents 8,000 U.S. authors, with a children's book author, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States, filed a class action suit in federal court in Manhattan against Google over its unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Library program. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction that will prevent the company from continuing their very ambitious digitization project. Arguments in the case will hinge around the interpretation of the four factors of Fair Use.

Many commentators in the world of copyright law and technology were not surprised by this development as The Authors Guild has also been involved in attempting to make online publishers pay royalties to writers whose stories appear in any number of online databases without their express consent. In a concession to general concerns about the nature of their project, Google had announced plans back in August that they would respect the wishes of copyright holders who contacted the company to inform them that they did not want their works included in this digitization project.

  • Scout Report "Authors’ group files lawsuit against Google" Sept, 2005
  • The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis - .pdf
  • Washington Post Sept. 20, 2005 "Google library push faces lawsuit by US authors"

Multinational corporation

Google is a multinational corporation, having offices in over a dozen countries. In order to comply with the varying laws of these countries, several versions of Google restrict very specific keyword searches. According to American law, any copyright owner can require material to be removed via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, whereas under French and German law, for example, hate speech and Holocaust denial are illegal. Google complies with these laws by banning keyword searches related to these terms. Google's Terms of Service allow it to comply with the laws of any one country, providing information that was originated (or that Google stores) in another country. Any data stored on Google is therefore subject to being turned over to any country, including China.

China's Censoring

The People's Republic of China, whose human rights record has been widely criticized by the international community, has in the past restricted citizen access to popular search engines such as Altavista, Yahoo!, and Google. The mirror search site elgooG has been used by Chinese citizens to get around blocked content. This complete ban is currently lifted. However, the government remains active in filtering Internet content.

In the summer of 2005 Google's name became associated with commercial contracts between the Government of China, Microsoft and Cisco Systems which block access to websites using words like "democracy." Google has been involved with the removal of specific sites that are blocked in China from their Chinese news portal. The French news agency, AFP, reported that Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google have all agreed to cooperate in censoring the Internet from their China based sites by filtering out content objectionable to the Chinese government. The list of forbidden words includes "democracy," "freedom," "human rights," and "Taiwan independence."

In October 2005, Blogger and access to the Google Cache were made available in China; however, in December 2005, some Chinese users of Blogger reported that their access to the site was once again restricted.

Legal issues

Google's efforts to refine its database has led to some legal controversy, notably a lawsuit in October 2002 from the company SearchKing which sought to sell advertisements on pages with inflated Google rankings. In its defense, Google stated that its rankings are its constitutionally protected opinions of the web sites that it indexes. A judge subsequently threw out SearchKing's lawsuit in mid-2003 on precisely these grounds.

In late 2003 and early 2004, there were rumors that Google would be sued by the SCO Group over their use of the Linux operating system, in conjunction with SCO's lawsuit against IBM over the claimed ownership of intellectual property rights relating to Linux.

In May 2004, the Baltimore Sun interviewed Peri Fleisher, a great-niece of Edward Kasner, the mathematician whose nephew coined the word googol, who said Kasner's descendants were "exploring" legal action against Google due to its name.

Google recently settled a patent infringement lawsuit with Yahoo! by issuing 2.7 million shares. Yahoo! had earlier alleged that Google's AdSense program violated a patent held by Yahoo!'s Overture unit. The settlement cost Google around $275 million which resulted in the company posting a net loss in the third quarter of 2004.

Personnel issues

On August 18, 2005, former Google sales executive Christina Elwell, promoted to national sales director at Google in late 2003, accused her supervisor of discrimination against her when he terminated her after she informed him of her pregnancy. After the loss of 3 of her quadruplets, which she claimed was due to the stressful circumstances created by Google, Elwell sued the company. She also refused an offer from Shona Brown, Google Vice President of Business Operations, to reinstate her to a "low-level operations position".


In February 2003, Google banned the ads of Oceana, a two-and-a-half-year-old non-profit organization, which was protesting the environmental effects of a major cruise ship operation's sewage treatment practices. Google claimed that their editorial policy states, "that Google does not accept advertising if the ad or site advocates against other individuals, groups, or organizations."

Offensive search results

In April 2004, Google received complaints that a search for "Jew" on its site listed the anti-Semitic website Jew Watch at or near the top of the list. Google responded that this was due to the content-neutrality of the PageRank algorithm, and the fact that racists used the specific word "Jew" (as opposed to "Jewish" or "Judaism") more often than others.

As a reaction, some webloggers launched a Google bomb to put the corresponding Wikipedia article at the top of the search results for "Jew," which had succeeded for a time. As of December 29, 2005, Jew Watch was holding the #1 result.

There is also an option for Google account users, who are logged in, to remove offensive search results.


Some have pointed out the dangers and privacy implications of having a centrally located, widely popular data warehouse of millions of Internet users' searches, and how under controversial existing U.S. law, Google can be forced to hand over all such information to the U.S. government, or any other government of a country which Google serves.

It has been claimed that Google infringes the privacy of visitors by uniquely identifying them using cookies which are used to track Web users' search history. The cookies possess notably distant expiration dates and it is claimed users' searches are recorded without permission for advertising purposes. In response Google claims cookies are necessary to maintain user preferences between sessions and offer other search features. The use of cookies with such distant expiration dates is not uncommon.

Some users believe the processing of email message content by Google's Gmail service goes beyond proper use. The point is often made that people without Gmail accounts, who have not agreed to the Gmail terms of service, but send email to Gmail users have their correspondence analyzed without permission. Google claims that mail sent to or from Gmail is never read by a human being beyond the account holder, and is only used to improve relevance of advertisements. Other popular email services such as Hotmail also scan incoming email to try to determine whether it is unsolicited spam email (which Gmail also does). Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC warned that "As courts become more frequent integrators of electronic records, there is a greater risk of Google ... becoming a serious privacy threat."

The PageRank system

Google's central PageRank system has been criticized. Some, such as Daniel Brandt, calling it "undemocratic". Common arguments are that the system is unfairly biased towards large web sites, and that the criteria for a page's importance are not subject to peer review. It must be stated in Google's defense that PageRank is a fully automated system which is impartial insofar as it knows no personal bias. However, it must also be stated that Google's system relies on human oversight, and use of company names on Adwords, or deletion of critical sites from Google results (for example, sites critical of Scientology), is decided by individual human beings according to company policy. It remains unclear whether any process could assert the importance of a page in a way that would draw less criticism than the current PageRank system.

The system is also susceptible to manipulation and fraud through the use of dummy sites, an issue which does, however, plague all search engines. See Google bomb and Spamdexing.

Specific searches

For users searching for more specific results, at the top of Google pages are additional tabs to more narrowly define a user's search results.

  • Images: Allows the user to limit a search to images on the Internet; the images are identified by Google by the image name saved on the webpage and context information about the page.
  • Groups: Allows the user to create, search and browse groups for discussion.
  • News: Brings the user directly to the Google News search page, formatted similar to news websites such as MSNBC or BBC News. The search page provides the option for twenty countries. Google.com.au allows selection criteria for Australia.
  • Froogle: Allows the user to shop online searching websites within a user specified budget. See Froogle.
  • Local: Searches for places (such as shops or other landmarks) in a geographical area, and displays maps and driving directions. Maps include road maps, medium-resolution satellite images, and "hybrid" maps combining both. See also Google Maps. Currently it provides full service only in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
    Earth: Allows the user to download a program to have a 3D version of satellite pictures. See Google Earth.
  • Desktop: Allows the user to search their computer for files, folders, and emails. See Google Desktop.
  • Talk: Allows users with Gmail accounts to communicate with each other through instant messaging and have online conversations. See Google Talk.
  • Videos: Allows the user to limit a search to videos on the Internet; Use Google to find reviews and showtimes for movies playing somewhere near you. See Google Video.
  • Blogs: Blog Search allows the user to only search blogs based on RSS feeds. Results can be sorted by relevance or by date. Although it allows you to search specific blogs, this feature is currently malfunctioning.
  • Scholar: Allows users to search some peer-reviewed, scholarly journals. Non-peer reviewed material is also included in the index.
  • Books: Allows users to search through books.

Clicking on the "More" tab at the top directs the user to even more Google Services such as Blogger, University Searches, Google products in their Labs section, Help and Alerts.

Google Maps web site sample
Google Maps web site sample

April Fool's Day jokes

Google has a tradition of creating April Fool's Day jokes such as Google MentalPlex which featured the use of mental power to search the Web. In 2002 they claimed that pigeons were the secret behind their growing search engine. In 2004 it featured Google Lunar which featured jobs on the moon and in 2005 a fictitious, brain-boosting drink termed Google Gulp was announced. You can find other pranks hidden between google's pages. In the languages list you can find the Bork! Bork! Bork! version. Bork! is the mock Swedish of the Muppets Show's Swedish Chef. There are also alternative languages available, such as Klingon. Some people thought the announcement of Gmail in 2004 around April Fools Day (as well as the doubling of Gmail's storage space to two gigabytes in 2005) was actually a joke.

See also


  • Mahadevan, Jeremy (Nov. 16, 2005). "Googlicious". New Straits Times, p. L12–L13.
  • "What's the catch?" (Nov. 16, 2005). New Straits Times, p. L13.

Further reading

  • David Vise and Mark Malseed (2005-11-15). The Google Story, Delacorte Press. ISBN 055380457X.
  • John Battelle (2005-09-08). The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, Portfolio Hardcover. ISBN 1591840880.

External links

Company websites

In the news

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