It seemed like just yesterday we discovered an innocent search page called Google? Google?! What a name. While everyone else in search back then had names like InfoSeek, Excite, and, oh yes, something called Yahoo, it was a strikingly simple design that greeted those that first visited google.com.
Today, Google is celebrating its twelfth anniversary, or, as they like to call it, along with a cute Cake Doodle on their search page, a birthday.
Back in the late 90s, I was convinced the search market saturated. Why would we need yet another search engine? And why would I bother using Google?
Turns out Google changed the game by doing a few things extremely well.
1. It was simple.
Where everyone else was adding bells and whistles, Google was taking them away. User experience was of utmost important. So instead of check boxes, and an overload of options, we were presented with the most spartan of screens. Perhaps Nike was a distant influence. It said to us: Just do it.
2. It was fast.
Speed kills… the competition. Google was (and still is) the fastest search engine on the planet. Blazingly fast. This is the Internet equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron, but without the price tag to match.
3. It was relevant.
Other search engines had a way of making us work too hard. Trying to find out why Koala are endangered? Chances are, pre-Google, you’d have to wade your way through tonnes of not-so-authoritative results; page after page of irrelevant stuff. Google figured out how to bubble up the most meaningful results. Today, I seldom need to click through search results to find what I’m looking for. Thanks to the ingenious (and black-box) algorithms, it’s almost always right there, on the front page.
4. It was a business. One that today makes more money that any rational person could ever have predicted.
AdWords will go down as one of the most brilliant concepts in history. Not only in tech, but also in business. In fact, it was the perfect marriage of the two. It was a license to print money. Once Google cornered search traffic, the ability to monetize was, fair to say, a satisfying reward.
Today, Google is an innovation machine. It attracts much of today’s top tech talent, and has broken the mold when it comes to corporate hierarchies, decision-making and team dynamics; all factors that have ensured the company hasn’t cracked under the pressure of growth.
Decades ago, Microsoft was that company. It will be interesting to watch the Mountain View giant’s journey continue.
Whatever happens next, rest assured it won’t be business as usual.