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  Wikipedia: Google

Wikipedia: Google
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Google is the world's most popular web search engine.

As of 2004, it handles upwards of 80% of all Internet searches through its website and the websites of clients like Yahoo and AOL, or roughly 200 million search requests per day. The popularity of Google is evinced by the fact that the verb "to google" is sometimes used generically to mean "to search the web".

In addition to web pages, Google also provides services for searching images, Usenet newsgroups and news sites. It currently indexes 4.28 billion web pages, 880 million images and 845 million Usenet messages, a total of 6 billion items. It also caches most of the content that it indexes.

The company

Google was established by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford Ph.D students who developed the theory that a search engine based on a mathematical analysis of the relationships between websites would produce better results than the basic techniques then in use. Convinced that the pages with the most links to them on other sites must be the most relevant ones, they decided to test this thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. They founded their company, Google Technologies Inc., in September 1998 with headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Google gained a following among internet enthusiasts for its simple, clean design and relevant search results. Advertisements were sold by the keyword so that they would be more relevant to the end user, and they were text-based in order to keep page design uncluttered and fast-loading. While many of its dot-com siblings went under, Google quietly rose in stature while turning a profit. The company is privately held, so exact revenue numbers are not available.

In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, owner of Blogger, a pioneering and leading weblog-hosting website. Upon first glance, the acquisition seemed inconsistent with the general "mission" of Google. However, it was soon theorized that Google perhaps plans to utilize information gleaned from blog postings to improve the speed and relevance of articles contained in Google News.

Google's major investors are the venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. In October 2003, while discussing a possible initial public offering, the company was approached by Microsoft about a possible partnership or merger; Google apparently rejected the offer. In January 2004, it was announced that Google had hired Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to arrange its initial public offering. That IPO—one of the most anticipated in history (Marshall, 2003)—might raise as much as $4 billion, giving Google a market capitalization of $12 billion, according to a banker involved in the transaction.


The word "Google" is a play on the word 'googol', which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the Web.

Google and the courts

A number of organizations (most controversially the Church of Scientology) have used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to demand that Google remove references to allegedly copyrighted material on other sites. Google typically handles this by removing the link as requested and including a link to the complaint in the search results. There have also been complaints that the "Google cache" feature violates copyright. However, the consensus seems to be that caching is a normal part of the functionality of the web, and that HTTP provides adequate mechanisms for requesting that caching be disabled (which Google respects; it also honors the robots.txt file).

In 2002, there were news reports that the Google search engine had been banned in China. A mirror site (in all respects, including mirrored text) called elgooG proved useful to get around the ban. The ban was later lifted, and reports indicated that it was not Google itself that was targeted. Rather, Google's feature of a cached version of a website would allow Chinese users to circumvent any ban of a website itself, merely by visiting the cache instead. There is also a dynamic Google mirror working as a proxy server at It is interesting to note that a more comprehensive caching service is provided by the Internet Archive, yet this site was not banned.

Google's efforts to refine its database has led to some legal controversy, drawing a lawsuit in October 2002 from a company, SearchKing, that sought to sell advertisements on pages with inflated Google rankings. Google stated in its defense that its rankings are its constitutionally protected opinions of the web sites that it lists. A judge threw out SearchKing's lawsuit in mid-2003 on precisely these grounds. [1] [1]

In late 2003 and early 2004, there were persistent rumors that Google would be sued by the SCO Group over its use of the Linux operating system, in conjunction with SCO's lawsuit against IBM over the ownership of intellectual property rights relating to Linux.

The search engine

PageRank and indexing

Google uses an algorithm called PageRank to rank web pages that match a given search string. The PageRank algorithm computes a recursive figure of merit for web pages, based on the weighted sum of the PageRanks of the pages linking to them. The PageRank thus derives from human-generated links, and correlates well with human concepts of 'importance'. Previous keyword-based methods of ranking search results, used by many search engines that were once more popular than Google, would rank pages by how often the search terms occurred in the page, or how strongly associated the search terms were within each resulting page. In addition to PageRank, Google also uses other secret criteria for determining the ranking of pages on result lists.

Google employs a server farm of more than 10,000 GNU/Linux computers to answer search requests and to index the web. The indexing is performed by a program ("googlebot") which periodically requests new copies of the web pages it already knows about. The links in these pages are examined to discover new pages to be added to its database. The index database and web page cache is several terabytes in size.

Google not only indexes and caches HTML-files but also 12 other file types, including .pdf (Portable Document Format), .txt (text), .doc (Word document), and .xls (Excel spreadsheet). Except in the case of text files, the cached version is a conversion to HTML. Hence Google allows reading these files even without having the corresponding program such as Word or Excel.

The search engine is somewhat customizable, allowing users to set a default language, whether to use "SafeSearch" filtering technology, and setting the number of results displayed per page. Google has been criticized for placing long-term cookies on users' machines to store these preferences, which also enables them to track a user's search terms over time. However, most of Google's services can be used with cookies disabled.

For any query, up to the first 1000 results can be shown.

(For an April Fool's parody of pagerank, see Google's PigeonRank™ page)

"Google dance" and optimization

Since Google has become one of the most popular search engines, many webmasters have become interested in following and attempting to explain changes to the rankings of their websites. An industry of consultants has arisen to assist websites in improving their rankings at Google, as well as other search engines. This field, called search engine optimization, attempts to discern patterns in search engine listings, and then develop a methodology for increasing rankings.

Forums can be found on the web where phenomena such as the "Google dance" are discussed. The Google dance is a period of a few days towards the end of a month when Google updates its database and ranking algorithms. Changes to the database can be observed by examining the number of results to a search such as "".

During the "dance" period, a site's ranking may change dramatically over a short period of time and different Google servers (e.g.,,,,, etc.) may give different results for the same search. The dance period appears to coincide with the time at which the googlebot examines "stable" sites. Rapidly changing sites, highly ranked sites and news sites are examined more often, although apart from news, only minor adjustments are made to rankings during most of the month. In some cases it may take two or three months before new pages appear in search results. The monthly searching, indexing and ranking cycle was replaced by a continuous rolling update in the summer of 2003. This change in the way google updates significantly reduced the unstable results of the monthly update "dance".

One of Google's chief challenges is that as its algorithms and results have gained the trust of web users, the profit to be gained by a commercial web site in subverting those results has increased dramatically. Some search engine optimization firms have attempted to inflate their Google ranking by various artificial means, attempting to draw more searchers to their clients' sites. Google has apparently managed to defeat or weaken these attempts by reducing the ranking of sites known to use them.

Google publishes a set of guidelines for website owners interested in improving their rankings using legitimate optimization consultants. [1]

Other Google services

Google Groups (Usenet), machine translation, Google Images

Google maintains a usenet archive, called Google Groups (formerly an independent site known as Dejanews), an experimental machine translation services (see link below), and an image search function (called "Google Images"). The latter is based on the text on the page adjacent to the image, the image caption, etc. A small version of the images is cached to comply with fair use laws.

Google News

Google introduced a beta release (a product of the so-called Google Labs) of an automated news compilation service, "Google News" in April 2002. There are different versions of the aggregator for the languages English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian. It is fully automated with no human editors to quell any charges of reporting bias.

The service covers the news articles that appeared within the past 30 days on news websites in the language concerned, from various countries; for the English language it covers about 4,500 sites, for the other languages less. It provides around the first 200 characters and links to the full article. Some of these websites require a subscription; in that case this is noted in the Google News summary of their articles.

Google News provides searching, and the choice of sorting the results by date and time of publishing (not to be confused with date and time of the news happening) or grouping them (and also grouping without searching). In the English version the grouping can optionally be tailored to a selected national audience.

Users can request Google News Alerts on various topics by subscribing with the use of key words. An email is sent when a news article matching the request appears online.

Google Answers

In April 2002, Google launched a new service called "Google Answers". Google Answers is an extension to the conventional search - rather than doing the search yourself, you pay someone else to do the search. Customers ask questions, offer a price for an answer, and researchers answer them. Prices for questions range from $2 to $200, Google keeps 25% of the payment, passing the rest to the researchers, and charges an additional 50c listing fee. In May 2003 this service came out of beta, though the site hasn't attracted as many customers as hoped.


In December 2003, Google announced Froogle, a spin-off that searches catalogues for particular products. This site had been active in beta for some months.


Google also includes a calculator and units converter, see [1]. Examples are:

Google Glossary

May, 2002, Google launched the beta version of Google Glossary, a search tool that, for a given word, retrieves the definitions it has been given on various web pages.

Search by Location

In September, 2003, Google launched the beta version of Search by Location, which acts like a normal Google search, but lets you geographically restrict the search (within the U.S.) by state, city or zipcode. It will also provide you with maps to the listed sites, and an estimate on the distance and direction to the sites.

Google software tools

Google Toolbar

This extension to Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later adds Google searching capabilities as a toolbar in the browser. The functionalities of the latest version includes pop-up ads blocking, automatic filling of forms. The program can be downloaded at for free of charge.

It has been criticized for being a security risk because it updates itself without user intervention. Other browsers, like Mozilla Firefox and Safari, have built-in search tools that perform the same abilites.

Google Deskbar

In December 2003, Google launched the beta version of the Google Deskbar, a search tool which runs from the Windows system tray, without a browser having to be open. It can return film reviews, stock quotes, dictionary and thesaurus defintitions, plus any pre-configured search of a third-party site (e.g. eBay or Amazon).


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
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