5 Things You Didn't Know about Google
September 2, 2008 1:06pm CST
There is no other company more synonymous with the internet than Google. As the mother of all search engines (a legitimate title considering Google surpassed Yahoo! as the most visited website in the U.S. in 2008), Google has come a long way since its early beginnings. It is also ranked as the No. 1 company to work for, according to Fortune magazine. Its popularity has become so widespread that most think Google was born along with the internet. To others, however, Google is the pinnacle of all internet companies -- a multifaceted search engine extraordinaire. Why such intrigue? Well, here are a just a few things you didn’t know about Google. 1- Google spends $72 million a year on employee meals Seventy-two million dollars a year -- that works out to about $7,530 per Googler (a term Google uses to identify employees). While the exact details vary depending on location (the Google empire spans the globe), employees at Google's California headquarters, aptly entitled the Googleplex, are welcome to at least two free meals a day from 11 different gourmet cafeterias. As if that weren’t enough, another thing you didn’t know about Google is that in addition to the cafeterias, Google offers numerous snack bars that are chock-full of healthy morsels to munch on. And that's certainly not all. Is your car in a bit of a rut? Not to worry; Google offers on-site car washes and oil changes. The list of perks for working at Google is never-ending, making it no surprise that it's considered the No. 1 place to work, offering: on-site haircuts, full athletic facilities, massage therapists, language classes, drop-off dry cleaning, day cares, and on-site doctors, just to name a few. Oh, and if your dog is stuck at home and feeling a little lonely, just bring him to work -- Google doesn't mind. 2- Google was originally called BackRub Like many other booming internet companies, Google has an interesting upbringing, one that is marked by a lowly beginning. Google began as a research project in January 1996 by cofounder Larry Page, a 24-year-old Ph.D. student at Standford University. Page was soon joined by 23-year-old Sergey Brin, another Ph.D. student, forming a duo that seemed destined for failure. According to Google's own corporate information, Brin and Page argued about every single topic they discussed. This incessant arguing, however, may have been what spurred the duo to rethink web-searching and develop a novel strategy that ranked websites according to the number of backlinks (i.e., according to the number of web pages that linked back to a web page being searched), and not based on the number of times a specific search term appeared on a given web page, as was the norm. Because of this unique strategy, another thing you didn't know about Google is that Page and Brin nicknamed the search engine BackRub. Thankfully, in 1998, Brin and Page dropped the sexually suggestive nickname, and came up with “Google,” a term originating from a common misspelling of the word "googol," which refers to 10100. The word “google” has become so common, it was entered into numerous dictionaries in 2006, referring to the act of using the Google search engine to retrieve information via the internet. 3- Google loses $110 million a year through "I'm Feeling Lucky" There's not much to see on Google's main search page, and perhaps simplicity is one of the keys to Google's success. When searching Google, you are given two options: “Google Search” or “I'm Feeling Lucky.” By clicking the former, you are given that familiar list of search results; by clicking the latter, however, you are automatically redirected to the first search result, bypassing the search engine’s results page. Besides the fun factor, the idea behind the “I'm Feeling Lucky” feature is to provide the user with instant connection to the precise page they are searching for, thus saving them time that would normally be spent perusing endless search results. Sounds harmless enough, right? Not so fast. Because “I'm Feeling Lucky” bypasses all advertising, it is estimated that Google loses about $110 million per year in advertising-generated revenue. So why in the world would any Fortune 500 company not patch such a gaping leak? "It's possible to become too dry, too corporate, too much about making money. I think what's delightful about 'I'm Feeling Lucky' is that it reminds you there are real people here," Google Executive Marissa Mayer told Valleywag, an online tech-blog. 4- Google has a sense of humor Google also offers full language support for Pig Latin, Klingon and even Elmer Fudd. Anyone else still feeling lucky? Try typing, “French military victories” and clicking “I'm Feeling Lucky.” Behold the result. Some might remember the “miserable failure” fiasco when one typed those words and clicked “I'm Feeling Lucky,” and they were instantly connected to a biography of President George W. Bush on the White House website. Now, before you jump to conclusions, this trick -- which no longer works -- was carried out by members of the online community through the art of “Google bombing.” Google bombing works because of Google's backlink search strategy. 5- Google scans your e-mails Nothing in life is perfect -- or without controversy -- and Google is no exception. Google scans your e-mails (at Gmail) through a process called “content extraction.” All incoming and outgoing e-mail is scanned for specific keywords to target advertising to the user. The process has brewed quite a storm of controversy, but Google has yet to back down on its stance. Google has remained similarly headstrong about other criticisms; in an attempt to remain partisan to local governments, Google removes or does not include information from its services in compliance with local laws. Perhaps the most striking example of this is Google's adherence to the internet censorship policies of China (at Google.cn) so as not to bring up search results supporting the independence movement of Tibet and Taiwan, or any other information perceived to be harmful to the People's Republic of China. Google Street has further been cited for breaching personal privacy. The service provides high-resolution street-view photos from around the world and has, on numerous occasions, caught people committing questionable acts. Moving from street to satellite, Google Earth has also come under fire from several Indian state governments about the security risks posed by the details from Google Earth's satellite imaging. When all is said and done, there are a lot of criticisms about Google and these few examples merely scratch the surface.
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