From a garage startup in Silicon Valley to a multi-billion dollar company that has more than 70 offices in over 40 global locations, in 15 years, Google has come a long way. It has changed the way we study, communicate and find places. Now to do most tasks, there's always an option to 'Google' it.
“I do not take the effort to memorize information that I can easily find on Google,” says 28-year-old marketing professional Divyam Kumar who knows he can depend on the search giant for help for almost everything. “I don't even need to remember difficult spellings or locations,” he says.
Daniel D'Mello (@danieldmello) agrees with Kumar. “I don't need to remember locations or names of specific sources of information anymore. No more books, libraries, websites,” he says. “I just need to know what I'm looking for. Through Google, or Google Scholar, the answer is at my fingertips.”
So common is this dependence on Google that a 2012 study suggests that people actively forget information if they think they can look it up later. It also states that our minds are changing to ensure we're experts at knowing where to find the info even without being able to recall it.
“I stopped needing remember most things including dates, proper nouns, hymns, verses, even spellings and antonyms,” adds Rohit Bansal (@therohitbansal).
What made Google make us this way? How does it make itself so relevant?
For a typical query on Google, “there are thousands, if not millions, of webpages with helpful information.” And it is its algorithms that have been developed over years – that throws up the most-related and relevant links and answers to questions you ask.
Today, Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique “clues” that make it possible to guess what you might really be looking for. These signals include things like the terms on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank. This very ability makes people use Google everyday to find everything. Tech journalist Nimish Dubey (@nimishdubey) admits. “Google made a search page my landing page for everything from news to images to videos. Pretty astounding."
The search also has 22 special features that can be activated by typing trigger words. For example, one can use it to find the current time, stock quotes, sports scores, and the weather. You can also use it directly for doing calculations.
Then there is the story of how Google changed the way we use email to become the world's most popular email service. When Gmail was introduced in 2004, it was the first time people heard about free unlimited storage space.
“I would use multiple email IDs because they allowed only 2-4MB storage,” says Chinmay Shah (@chin80), a communications professional who moved to using only one account after Gmail invited users to try its email service that significantly increased storage to 1 GB.
Its minimalistic look and feel made people appreciate it more. The in-email chat grew popular on Gmail although it was not their innovation. Other options like Gmail labs, introduced in 2008, allowed users to try experimental features like the ability to create custom keyboard shortcuts, move the chat box to the right side of the inbox or even the incredible undo send option that lets users 'Stop messages from being sent for a few seconds after hitting the send button'.
Fans of Google Translate, Maps have their say:
French translator Gurudutt Kamath is a big fan of Google Translate, an instant automatic translation tool. “I improve my French to English translations using it because it lets me learn new terminologies about new domains like nuclear science and cardiology,” he says. Translate currently supports 71 languages. First launched in 2006, the service is used by over 200 million people every month on translate.google.com and Google services such as Chrome, mobile apps, YouTube.
Homemaker Ranjana Vashist uses Google Maps on her phone when she is exploring new places. “I use it in the city and even when I travel to new destinations. It's handy especially in areas where there is no one you can ask for directions.” The web-mapping service that offers a route planner for travelling by foot, car, bike, or with public transportation and also lets users see which areas are congested with traffic in real-time was acquired by Google in 2004.
Then of course there is YouTube, the second most-used search engine in the world. The site hosts millions of videos created by people including teachers and artists. It's partner program has allowed these creators of video content to make money and some make a living just creating videos that people want to see. "YouTube is my favourite teacher," says Tanisha Dey. "I have learnt how to play the guitar, canvas paint and even braid my hair in 5 different ways on the website."
Other Google tools and services include:
Chrome: Its web browser
Google Docs, now Drive: Online file sharing and collab editing tech
Android: Mobile operating platform for smartphones and tablets.
Google Ad Sense: It's ad serving application for online publishers
Tell us how Google has had an impact on you. Share your views below