Google Celebrates 19th Birthday

In late September, online giant Google celebrates its birthday. Two decades ago, the two Stanford students couldn’t imagine that one day their company would service more than half of the world’s search requests. On this day, we look back at how the simple search engine gained the love of millions of users.

The September 27 date hasn’t always been the corporation’s birthday: the official date was only set in 2006. The google.com domain name was registered by Larry Page and Sergey Brin on September 15, 1997. Even Ryan Germick, lead of Google’s official Doodle Team, admits that there has been some inconsistency regarding the event.

“When’s Google’s birthday? I'm not sure even we know – we’ve celebrated on September 7th, 8th, 26th, and, most recently the 27th,” – he said.

Evolution of Google

Google is 19 today. In that time, the search engine has demonstrated some very notable achievements. Stats for 2017 show that the engine processes approximately 41.34 billion search requests every day and indexes more than 25 billion webpages each month (over its history, it has indexed a total of more than 60 trillion webpages and documents). A variety of the company’s online products – from Google Maps to Google Translate – are extremely popular, too, and can be used in nearly 200 languages, including extinct and artificial ones.

In 2016, at the Google Performance Summit, the corporation cited an estimate of the amount of search requests it handles over the course of a year. Even though no exact number was given, the estimate is still astounding. According to Google representatives, the engine processes “trillions of search requests”. Experts, in turn, have suggested that this would mean at least two trillions. These suggestions are mostly based on the official stats for 2012, which Google had shared with the public. Back then, the figure amounted to 1.2 trillion. In the subsequent four years, the company is likely to have increased it at least twofold.

It is estimated that Google processes 63,000 search queries each second, 3.8 million every minute, 228 million every hour, 5.5 billion each day and 167 billion every month.

What about the search engine’s visuals? It should be said that, as evidenced by any compilation video of Google’s changes over the years, it is quite obvious that its developers are keen on minimalism. For some, this tradition is the reason why they love it so much, while for others it is their biggest gripe with it.

In Russia

According to TNS Gallup Media, in 2015 the internet giant had 49.4 million users in Russia as compared to its competitor Yandex’s 62 million, although these stats did not account for mobile and tablet users. According to reports by research companies, Google dominates the country’s mobile market, which experts believe is connected to the popularity of its web browser Chrome. It is also overwhelmingly popular among the younger Russian population, of which 88% use Google’s products and only 64% use Yandex’s.

In 2016, Google once again became the most popular online service in Russia, outperforming Yandex in regards to its accumulative monthly audience. According to TNS’s stats for April 2016, 20.5 million people use Google’s website or one of its mobile apps at least once a month (for Yandex, that figure is 20.4 million).

Algorithms of success

Google’s strength as a search engine lies in its algorithms. Regular users and IT professionals often say that they prefer Google simply because it is better at certain tasks – such as finding plane tickets.

“Google’s algorithms give great results in certain search areas and less great results in others. The company has this Google Knowledge Graph, which is a database that they use to improve the way they search for facts, events, names, toponyms. Then there is Google Scholar and a number of other services that attract a certain audience. Google’s global citation services are effective, as well. At the same time, different search engines have access to various data – some documents that Yandex can access, Google cannot,” – explains Dmitry Muromtsev, head of ITMO’s International laboratory of Information Science and Semantic Technologies.

In 2012, Rinat Safin, head of Google’s search quality team in Moscow, shared with readers about Google’s official blog on Habrahabr how the company’s algorithms change. To improve its search quality, 50,000 experiments are conducted yearly and more than 500 changes to search algorithms are implemented. Some of them are interface redesigns and can be noticed quite easily, while others simply affect the order in which results are displayed, so that the most relevant link is displayed higher. Each change is tested thoroughly and subjected to discussion. In the first 120 days of 2012, Safin says, more than 150 changes were made to the algorithms – and that was five years ago!

So what are the algorithms responsible for Google’s speed and comfort? In recent years, a number of algorithms were especially impactful. The Panda algorithm was first launched in 2011, with the goal of lowering the placement of websites with low-quality content. Notable, Panda was initially not a part of the main algorithm, but a filter, and only affected a number of websites after each of its updates. In January 2016, it was officially made a part of the main algorithm. These days, updates have become so frequent that they are no longer given announcements.

Penguin was launched in spring of 2012 and currently updates in real-time mode. It lowers the placement of websites with spam-filled link profiles and websites that try to manipulate their link mass. Most of its victims tend to be merit-based links and those that lead to untrustworthy websites.

Google’s Pirate Update was launched in summer of 2012 and only updated two years later. Its aim is to lower the rankings of websites that are reported for distributing pirated, copyright-infringing content. Most of the sites affected by the update contained downloadable or streamed films, music or books.

The Hummingbird algorithm was introduced in summer of 2013 in order to provide more relevant results according to search requests’ meaning and intention. According to experts, it was this update that made the most significant changes to how the search engine interprets users’ requests. This is because with Hummingbird, the emphasis was put not on simply searching for keywords, but on understanding the users’ intentions.

Another bird-named algorithm, Pigeon, was launched a year later. Its goal is to improve the efficiency of location-based search.

The Mobile Friendly Update, which came out in April 2015, helped place mobile-optimized webpages higher on the list when searching on a mobile device. RankBrain, which launched at around the same time, uses machine learning to provide better results to users.

Opossum (September 2016) provides better location-based search, and Fred (March 2017) filters out ad-spamming pages from search results.

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