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“Do you know where I can…? Just Google it!” The evolution of the world’s most popular search engine over 15 years

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Google originally started off as a search engine in 1998 that provided users with an index of websites and links that matched their inputted keywords.

“Do you know where I can...? Just Google it!”

“Do you know where I can…? Just Google it!”

Remember when you had questions and the only way to find out the answer was to: A- Ask someone else who may or may have not had the answer to your question or B- Head over to your local library and hope they had a book in their inventory which covered the broad topic that included your inquiry, then spend a few hours going through the text to possibly find what you were looking for? If you don’t remember going through this, chances are, you were born sometime in the 90’s or afterwards following the proliferation of the Internet and the concept of “search the web.”

Humble Beginnings

As Google turns 15 years old this week, with dozens of world-renowned products under its wings, including YouTube, Chrome, Gmail and Android, it’s worth standing back and gazing at the evolution of its Pièce de résistance and the product which helped launch it 15 years ago; Search. Google originally started off as a search engine in 1998 that provided users with an index of websites and links that matched their inputted keywords. Google, however, had bigger plans for its search engine; its founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had always strived for “a search engine that understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you need.”

 

Google’s search engine relied – and still does – on complex algorithms which enable the user to access millions of results relating to their search query. Google also dedicated more engineers to the development of its search engine than for any other product.

The Future…or is there more to come?

Rewind a few years back to the mid-2000’s; you might have thought Search was pretty much a solved problem — from your desktop, you could search for keywords across billions of web pages, not to mention videos, maps, images, translations, trends, and more. It was fast, comprehensive, and better than anything people had seen before. But it was really just beginning. You shouldn’t have had to guess at keywords, or be at your desktop to get information, or even type at all; and Google agreed with you.

Google’s strive to continuously offer cutting edge services for its search engine eventually gave rise to the Knowledge Graph in 2012, in which Google created a search engine that can actively “learn”. The Knowledge Graph helps make search smarter by mapping out things in the real world, besides just strings of letters. The Knowledge Graph continues to develop and expand as it “learns”, adding more than 570 million entities with over 18 billion attributes and connections thus far.

Google didn’t stop at developing Search for desktop. With the abundance of smart phones worldwide, mobile Search was becoming just as – if not more – important. Google built a “conversational” search engine, which you can talk to in your native language, and get answers wherever and whenever you need them (Voice Search). But what if all of this wasn’t enough? What if what we really needed was a Search engine that actively anticipated our needs and told us about them at the right time? Google had that covered as well.

Google introduced Google Now in late 2012, which is about providing you with just the right information at just the right time. You could even get the right information before you need to ask for it. With the new reminders in Google Now, not only can you save things to remember later, but you can actually pick a time or place to trigger those reminders, so they pop up at just the right time. Because a note to buy milk, paper towels and food for the cat is a lot more helpful when you’re actually at the grocery store; if you’re about to miss the last train home, Google Now can remind you that you had better leave.

Google has found more than 60 trillion web addresses so far (vs. one trillion in 2008), and they’ve indexed pages from over 230 million domains, and it is always changing to keep up. Gazing back today at the marvel that is Search and the giant strides in technological advancements we continue to witness on a daily basis, it would be a safe bet to say that we are seeing the tip of the iceberg and just the first hints of how easy and useful it will become in the next few years. Happy Birthday, Google Search Engine!


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