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  1. What Is
January 20, 2023updated 20 Jan 2024 3:32am

What is Google?

By Tech Monitor Staff

Google is the most popular search engine in the western world and the most visited website on earth.

The company has operated since the late 1990s and is one of the most fundamental forces in the development of the internet as we know it – to the point where the phrase ‘googling’ is synonymous with using a search engine.

While the search engine is the company’s flagship product, Google operates in numerous areas including hardware, cloud computing, advertising, software and AI.

The Google app logo (Image: Shutterstock)

Who founded Google?

The company had its inception in 1995 when founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page partnered to create a search engine called ‘backrub’ while students at Stanford University, California.

The name was then changed to Google and by 1998 the company had secured $100,000 in funding from Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim.

The company famously used the motto “don’t be evil” but, upon restructuring into Alphabet Inc., relegated the phrase to its code of conduct – first in the preface and now as the final sentence.

Why is it called Google?

The name Google comes from a play on the term ‘googol’, which is the number 1 followed by one hundred zeroes. According to the company. it is said to reflect the founders’ mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

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Who owns Google?

Google is now under the umbrella of Alphabet Inc., a publicly traded company with multiple classes of shareholders.

According to Capital.com, the largest individual shareholders in the company are its founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, owning 85.9% of the company’s class B ‘insider’ shares. These are not publicly traded shares but instead confer ten times the voting power of Class A GOOGL shares, meaning that the pair control around 51% of the company’s voting power (as of 2021).

Beyond the insiders, the largest institutional investors are (according to Market Screener as of Feb 2023):

  • The Vanguard Group – 7.58%
  • Capital Research and Management – 5%
  • SSgA Funds Management – 3.64%
  • Fidelity Management and Research – 3.12%
  • BlackRock Fund Advisors – 2.15%
Google offices
Google offices (Image: Shutterstock)

Google products and services

Google’s search engine is its best-known product, but it is far from its only business venture:

Advertising

Like many of the major public-facing tech companies, advertising is at the heart of Google’s business model. The company uses its AdSense and DoubleClick platforms to perform targeted advertising both on the search engine and on third-party websites via Google Ads.

Hardware

Google produces a number of physical products designed to operate in tandem with its services, such as the Pixel smartphone line, the Chromecast in-home streamer, the Chromebook laptop range and the Nest smart home device.

Chrome

Much like its search engine, Google’s Chrome browser is the most widely used in the market and has also been spun off into ChromeOS, which powers the Chromebook range.

Workspace

Previously known as the G-Suite, Workspace comprises the work and productivity tools available under the Google banner, including Docs, Sheets, Slides and Gmail.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud is the company’s public cloud offering. It provides a range of services including cloud storage, data analytics, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and AI through its Cloud Machine Learning Engine.

Alphabet subsidiaries

Google, including its full suite of products and services, is just one subsidiary of Alphabet. The parent company oversees numerous other operations outside of internet services, including:

DeepMind

In 2014, Google purchased British artificial intelligence company DeepMind before it came under the banner of Alphabet during the company restructuring in 2015. The company has made several significant strides in machine learning technology and is famous for its AlphaGo AI, which defeated world champion Go player Lee Sedol in 2016.

Waymo

Waymo is Alphabet’s venture into the convenience economy with self-driving cars. Separating itself from competitors that have suffered public setbacks, Waymo has quietly begun to make advances in the autonomous driving space to the point where it now operates publicly available self-driving taxis in Phoenix in San Francisco for ‘trusted testers’.

Google Fiber

Google Fiber is Alphabet’s fibre optic internet service provider. While it is a smaller provider compared to many others – available to around 3.1 million or 1% of Americans – it boasts the second-highest level of fibre availability in the US at 92.7%.

Along with these, Alphabet’s subsidiaries also include Health company Calico, tech industry private equity firm CapitalG, robotics firm Intrinsic and “moonshot” technology developer X Development – among many others.

Google vs OpenAI

While Google has been dominant in the search landscape for decades, the company is now facing stiff competition from Microsoft-backed OpenAI, whose ChatGPT service has proved to be a major disruptor to online services.

The large language model chatbot has been dubbed a “Google killer” due to its potential to provide an alternative to the traditional search engine model by generating a specific answer as opposed to serving pages based on SEO next to ads.

Microsoft’s decision to integrate ChatGPT into its Bing and Teams services has sparked an AI brand war, with Google in the unfamiliar challenger position with its Bard generative AI.

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