With its 2013 revenue of close to $60 billion and with an average of 40,000 search queries being conducted on its site each second, Google is undeniably a wildly successful company. However, like all business giants, Google began humbly with founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, then Ph.D. students at Stanford University, aiming “to organize the world’s information.” What began as a research project later branched out into all sorts of Internet-related services and raised funding that allowed the company to acquire dozens of other companies. These include YouTube, DoubleClick, Keyhole, Inc. (now “Google Earth”), and GrandCentral (now “Google Voice”), among others. And not surprisingly, because the company has grown so huge, many facts about it have been buried in its own avalanche of information.
Here are ten interesting facts about Google that most people aren’t aware of:
10. Google got its name via a typo.
Google is so widely used that its name has been recognized as a verb, meaning “to search for information on the Internet using the search engine Google.” However, this name was actually conceptualized by accident in 1996. According to David Koller from Stanford University, several Google pioneers, including founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were discussing possible new names for the rapidly improving search technology they had been working on. Sean Anderson suggested “googolplex” (10100) to allude to the large amount of data the search engine would be dealing with, and Page suggested that they work with the shortened form, “googol”. Anderson then conducted a search to determine if the word was still available on the Internet domain name registry, but he mistakenly typed in “google.com”. That error turned out to be fortuitous as Page liked the name, and within hours, the founders had registered “Google”.
9. Google has been ordered to pay a woman for a Street View image that showed part of her cleavage.
Google Street View has provided millions of Internet users with panoramic views of numerous streets throughout the world via the company’s network of stationary and moving cameras. However, in October of 2014, a court in Montreal ruled that Google had to compensate a woman for capturing her in an image with “part of her breast exposed.” Mary Pia Grillo was sitting in front of her home when Street View cameras took a picture of her while she was slightly leaning forward, thus exposing her cleavage. According to Grillo’s account of the story, she suffered from depression as a result of her coworkers finding the image and mocking her for it. Meanwhile, Google defended itself by claiming that Grillo was in a public space when the image was captured. Nevertheless, the court ordered Google to pay Grillo $2,250 for violating her privacy rights, which the judge ruled Grillo hadn’t surrendered simply by being in a location where others could see her.
8. The company owns several domains that are common misspellings of “Google”.
This might seem like taking the attempt to corner the market too far, but the company actually has good reason to buy domains that are common misspellings of its name. After all, “Google” is among the most misspelled words in search history. For example, the most common misspelling, which is “Googel”, is searched more than 5,000,000 times each month. And by buying the domain and redirecting the hits to “Google.com”, the company ensures that errant typers land on the intended site. In fact, Google even owns the domain “466453”, which is the numerical equivalent of its name. And just to be sure, the company has purchased the domains of common misspellings of its other products like “googel maps”, “googel earh”, “googel translate”, and googel adsense.”
7. Google has launched a high-altitude balloon project, which envisions worldwide Internet access.
While many are quick to label this era as “The Age of the Internet,” the truth is that over two-thirds of the world’s population has yet to enjoy ready access to the World Wide Web. Enter Google with “Project Loon” that aims to launch a network of balloons that travel on the edge of space to make it possible for anyone within range to access the Internet. More specifically, each balloon can provide an area of more than 1,000 kilometers with Internet service. In fact, in June of 2013, the project successfully conducted an experimental launch of 30 balloons in New Zealand. Then later, in June of 2014, Google was able to provide LTE Internet access to select testers in Brazil.
The progress of the experiment could shake up the businesses of Internet providers worldwide as the high-altitude Internet balloon technology could eventually allow countries to avoid having to install expensive underground fiber cables.
6. Google provides its employees with the most amazing perks.
Fortune has named Google “The Best Company to Work For” for five of the last eight years, including 2014, and that shouldn’t be very surprising for those who know the perks that the company provides to its employees. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt explains why the company goes out of its way to make sure its employees are happy:
The goal is to strip away everything that gets in our employees’ way. Let’s face it: programmers want to program, they don’t want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both.
In order to achieve the goal, Google pays its employees an average of $100,000 annually. On top of that salary, “googlers” (as Google employees are called) get to enjoy the benefits of having on-site doctors, eating three free, full meals and unlimited snacks every day, getting free haircuts, being allowed to bring their pets to work, earning achievement-based free massages, and leaving their toddlers in free on-site daycares, among others.
5. The Google corporate headquarters is a spectacle in itself.
The company’s corporate headquarters, dubbed “The Googleplex” (no doubt a play on the term “googolplex”), is certainly a sight to behold. Located in Mountain View, Santa Clara County in California, the complex will lie on 3.1 million square feet of property once the 1.1 million square foot Bay View addition is completed in 2015. But even as the huge expansion is yet to be completed, the site already boasts of dozens of noteworthy features, including a full-scale T-Rex replica named “Stan” (with plastic pink flamingos strewn around it), the company’s own garden of vegetables called “The Google Garden,” a sculpture garden with famous key figures, and a lobby wall projection that shows in real time what searches are being typed into Google from all over the world.
4. The first Google storage was encased in Lego and had a storage capacity of only 40GB.
Yes, just 40GB, which is even less than the storage capacity of the modern iPod. This original Google storage, which can today be viewed at the Octagon of the new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center, was considered a super machine at the time despite containing only ten 4-GB disk drives. Its algorithms were developed on a number of computers provided by a special project at Stanford University and was designed to enable the system to crawl the web to obtain its unique link structure. Quite amusingly, the housing for the disk drives was made out of Lego blocks because the structure was easily expandable in case more storage had to be added to it. And the machine demonstrates that even in its earliest days, Google had a a sense of humor as mini-figures, also made from Lego, were added as decor on top of the housing.
3. Google employs goats to keep its fields neat.
Google prides itself in going green whenever possible, and the company certainly took a step in that direction by hiring goats to keep the turf around the Googleplex looking neat and tidy. More specifically, Google contracted California Grazing to send over a herd of 200 goats (and a goat-herder border collie) to trim down the scrublands and weeds at its Mountain View complex, a move considered greener than using petrol mowers. On average, the goats spend a week at a time at the Googleplex, and they leave the venue looking as if it had been professionally groomed. Dan Hoffman, Google’s Director of Real Estate and Workplace Services further explained, “It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawnmowers.”
2. Google’s formal corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.”
The most popular account of how Google’s corporate motto came to be “Don’t be evil” reveals that Google employee Paul Butcheit brought up the suggestion at a 2000 or 2001 meeting about corporate values. Butcheit later explained that the slogan was “a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies,” especially their competitors, who Google felt were “exploiting the users to some extent.” However, the motto has also been an attacking point for Google’s critics. In 2012, for example, when Google announced that they would no longer be maintaining a strict separation between search results and advertising, its competitor, Microsoft, charged that Google had abandoned the spirit of its slogan.
1. The Google search bar can be used as more than just a means of conducting searches.
Google’s search bar is, of course, primarily a means of conducting searches, but Google designers have incorporated into it several other features that range from the amusingly useful to the utterly silly. For example, typing equations into the Google search bar provides users with a calculator that answers the problem. Meanwhile, typing in “[food]” vs [food]” (such as “bread vs rice”) reveals a relevant nutrition comparison table. Then there’s the “define: word” feature that turns Google into an online dictionary. Of course, given the playful nature of the company, the designers had to put in a few whacky features; typing in “do a barrel roll,” “tilt,” and “”google in [year]” results in entertaining effects, while inputting “zerg rush” or conducting an image search of “atari breakout” allow users to waste more than just a few minutes of idle time.
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