The Google reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Google's main pageEnlarge

Google's main page

Google is the most popular search engine on the World Wide Web. Through its website and client websites, such as AOL, Google receives at least 200 million search requests per day. Google has its headquarters (called the "Googleplex") in Mountain View, California, USA.

In addition to web pages, Google also provides services for searching images, Usenet newsgroups, news sites, and items for sale online. As of June 2004, Google contained 4.28 billion web pages, 880 million images and 845 million Usenet messages in its index; a total of 6 billion items. It also caches much of the content that it indexes.

"To google", as a verb, has come to mean "to search for something on Google;" because of Google's popularity (80% of all web users, perhaps) it has also generically come to mean "to search the web." Google officials have expressed discouragement for this usage of their company name, as it could lead to their name becoming a genericized trademark.

Table of contents
1 The company
2 The search engine
3 Other Google services
4 Google's software tools
5 Criticism of Google
6 Books
7 Puffin
8 Related articles
9 External links

The company

A Google search results pageEnlarge

A Google search results page


Google began as a research project in early 1996 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. It was originally nicknamed BackRub because the system checked backlinks to estimate a site's importance.

Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant webpages must be the most relevant ones, Page and Brin decided to test their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. They formally founded their company, Google Inc., on September 7, 1998 in Menlo Park, California in a friend's garage. The company moved to more spacious headquarters in February 1999 in Palo Alto before finally moving to the "Googleplex" later that year.

Google gained a following among Internet users 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 the ads 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.

In February 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, owner of Blogger, a pioneering and leading weblog-hosting website. The acquisition seemed inconsistent with the general mission of Google. However, the move secured the company's ability to utilize information gleaned from blog postings to improve the speed and relevance of articles contained in Google News.

At its peak in early 2004, Google handled upwards of 80% of all search requests on the world wide web through its website and clients like Yahoo, AOL, and CNN. [1] Google's share fell in February 2004 when Yahoo! dropped Google's search technology in order to deliver independent results.

Google's code of conduct is Don't be evil. Their site includes humorous features such as cartoon modifications of their logo for special occasions, the option to display the site in fictional or humorous languages such as klingon, and April Fool's jokes about the company.

Financing and IPO

Google's major investors are the venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital. In October 2003, while discussing a possible IPO (Initial Public Offering of shares), the company was approached by Microsoft about a possible partnership or merger; no such deal ever materialized.

In January 2004, Google announced the hiring of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group to arrange an IPO. That IPO (one of the most anticipated in history) might raise as much as $4 billion. According to a banker involved in the transaction, the deal would produce for Google a market capitalization of as much as $12 billion.

On April 29, 2004, Google filed an S-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO to raise as much as USD $2,718,281,828 (with a touch of mathematical humor in the exact amount). The filing revealed that Google turned a profit every year since 2001 and earned a profit of $105.6 million on revenues of $961.8 million during 2003.

seen in Google HQ lotEnlarge

seen in Google HQ lot


The name "Google" is a play on the word googol, which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of U.S mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by a hundred 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 which is a mechanism to allow the owners of a site to request that part or all of their site not be included in search engine listings).

In 2002, news reports surfaced 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 .

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. In its defense, Google said 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.

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.

In May 2004, the Baltimore Sun interviewed Peri Fleisher, a great-niece of Edward Kasner, the mathematician whose nephew coined the word googol, who said Kasner's descendants were "exploring" legal action against Google due to its name. [1]

The search engine

Physical structure

Graphic representation of the world wide web around GoogleEnlarge

Graphic representation of the world wide web around Google

Google employs server farms of GNU/Linux computers around the world to answer search requests and to index the web. The server farms are built using a shared nothing architecture. The indexing is performed by a program ("Googlebot") which periodically requests new copies of the web pages it already knows about. The more often a page updates, the more often Googlebot will visit. 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.

The exact size and whereabouts of the physical machines in the google search engine is unknown, and official figures remain intentionally vague. In John Hennessy and David Patterson's Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach, the server farm cluster forming the Google "search farm" would in the year 2000 have consisted of about 6000 processors, 12000 common IDE-disks (2 per machine, and one machine per processor), at four sites: two in Silicon Valley and two in Virginia.

Each site had an OC 48 (2488 Mbps, see broadband Internet access article) connection to the Internet and an OC 12 (622 Mbps) connections to other Google sites. The connections are routed through a Cisco 12000 network switch and split by two Foundry Networks BigIron 8000 ethernet switches dividing the traffic onto 4 x 1 Gbps lines connecting up to 64 racks, with 40 machines and an HP Ethernet switch on both back and flip side, so that a rack would fit 80 machines and two HP switches.

Based on the Google IPO S-1 form released in April 2004, Tristan Louis, the Vice President of application development for the Internet unit of a large financial firm, estimated the current server farm to contain something like the following [1]:

According to this estimate, the Google server farm constitutes the most powerful supercomputer in the world, being able to perform at least three times as many calculations per second as the Earth Simulator.

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 not only indexes and caches HTML-files but also 12 other file types, including .PDF, .txt, .doc, and .xls. 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.

Users can customize the search engine somewhat. They can set a default language, use "SafeSearch" filtering technology, and set the number of results shown on each page. Google has been criticized for placing long-term cookies on users' machines to store these preferences, a tactic which also enables them to track a user's search terms over time. For any query (of which only the 10 first keywords are taken into account), up to the first 1000 results can be shown with a maximum of 100 displayed per page.

Despite its immense index, there is also a considerable amount of data in databases which are accessible from websites by means of queries, but not by links. This so-called deep web is not covered by Google and contains e.g. catalogues of libraries, official legislative documents of governments, phone books, etc.

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

"Google dance" and optimization

Since Google is the most popular search engine, many webmasters have become eager to follow and to explain changes to the rankings of their websites. A new industry of consultants has arisen to help websites raise their rankings on Google and on 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.

One technique commonly used is google bombing in which many sites link to another site through a particular word, in order to give the site a high ranking when the word is searched for.

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 particular page 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 specific Google rankings by various artifices, and thereby draw more searchers to their clients' sites. Google has managed to weaken some of these attempts by reducing the ranking of sites Google knows to use them.

Google publishes a set of guidelines [1] for a website's owners who would like to raise their rankings when using legitimate optimization consultants.

Other Google services

Google Groups (Usenet) & Google Images

Google maintains a usenet archive, called Google Groups (formerly an independent site known as
DejaNews) 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 is currently testing a new version of its Groups service, which archives mailing lists in addition to usenet posts, using the same interface as Gmail (see below).

Google News

Google introduced a beta release 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. To quell any charges of reporting bias, it is fully automated with no human editors.

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, there is an option to tailor the grouping to a selected national audience.

Users can request Google News Alerts on various topics by subscribing while using key words. An email is sent when a news article matching the request comes online.

The Google News services can also be customised for the country that you are from (jump to Google News Country Links).

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 themselves, users pay someone else to do the search. Customers ask questions, offer a price for an answer, and researchers answer them. Researchers are screened through an application process that tests their research and communications abilities. Prices for questions range from $2 to $200; Google keeps 25% of the payment, sends the rest to the researchers, and charges an additional $0.50 listing fee. Once a question is answered, it remains available for anyone to browse for free. This service came out of beta in May 2003 and presently receives more than one hundred question postings per day.


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. It is now offered in Wireless Markup Language (WML) form and can be accessed from phones or other wireless devices that have support for WML.


On April 1, 2004, Google announced its own free webmail service, Gmail, which would provide users with 1000 megabytes of storage for their mailboxes and would generate revenue by displaying advertisements from the AdWords service based on words in users' e-mail messages. Owing to April Fool's Day, however, the company's press release was greeted with much skepticism in the technology world. Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's vice-president of products, re-assured BBC News by saying "We are very serious about Gmail."

The service is set to allow up to 1000 MB of storage space. When Gmail was announced, this was vastly more than that of most other free webmail providers - for example, Microsoft's Hotmail only offered 2 MB, and Yahoo's Mail service offered 4 MB. In response to Gmail, these limits have been upgraded, to 250 MB for Hotmail and 100 MB for Yahoo. Other webmail providers have followed suit, some of them now offering larger storage than Gmail.

As of July 10, 2004, the service was being tested internally. It is not known when will the service be available to the public. However, the service is available to Blogger users and by invitation from current Gmail users. However, the invites system has led to gmail invites being exchanged for cash and goods through websites like Gmail swap, making Google change it's policy on invites by disallowing cash exchanges.

There has been a great deal of criticism regarding Gmail's privacy policy. Much of the controversy involved the clause "residual copies of email may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted messages from your mailbox or after the termination of your account." Many believed that this meant that Google would intentionally archive copies of deleted mail forever. Google later stated that they will "make reasonable efforts to remove deleted information from our systems as quickly as is practical." Most of the criticism, however, was against Google's plans to add context-sensitive advertisements to e-mails by automatically scanning them.

Google Web API

The Google Web API (or Google Web Services) is Google's public interface for registered developers. Using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), a programmer can write services for search and data-mining that rely on Google's results. Also, websurfers can view cached pages and make suggestions for better spelling.

By default a developer has a limit of 1,000 requests per day. This program is still in Beta phase. Google is one of the few search engines to make its results available via a public API; Technorati is another good example. Some popular implementations of the Google Web API include the alerting service Google Alert, as well as the Google Dance Tool, which monitors when Google is spidering the Internet.


Though not mentioned on the Google homepage, Orkut is a service hosted, created and maintained by Google engineers. Orkut is a relationship database, where users can list their personal and professional information, create relationships amongst friends and join communities of mutual interest.

There is some speculation saying that Orkut and Gmail are part of a Google effort to gather information about their users, with the intention of offering a better personalized search service in future. Google already has a personalized search in Google Labs.

Other tools

Google's software tools

Google Toolbar

This addition to
Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or later adds Google's searching capabilities in a toolbar in the browser. The latest version includes pop-up ads blocking, automatic filling of forms, and the ability to show the Google PageRank value for the current page being viewed. It has been criticized for being a security risk because it updates itself without user intervention.

A separately downloadable add-on for the toolbar allows participation in Google Compute, a distributed computing project to help scientific research.

Other browsers, like Mozilla Firefox and Safari, have built-in search tools that offer the same functionality. Mozilla Firefox also has its own version of the Google Toolbar, the Googlebar, which is developed independently of and is not supported by Google or the Mozilla Firefox developers. It expands upon the official google toolbar to the point that the only feature not replicated is the Google PageRank functionality. Google has also been built into Safari for Apple Computer's new OS X operating system.

Google Deskbar

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

Criticism of Google

While Google's apparent effectiveness has led droves of people to use it as their primary search tool, Google has managed to become the target of critics. Online journalists disliked that Google News equated press releases with news articles. In February 2003, Google banned the ads of Oceana, a two and a half year old non-profit group, which was protesting over a major cruise line's sewage treatment methods. Chris Hoofnagle, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC warned that "As courts become more frequent integrators of electronic records, there is a greater risk of Google ... becoming a serious privacy threat."

Claims of partiality

In April 2004, Google received complaints about the way that a search for "Jew" on its site listed the anti-Jewish website Jew Watch at or towards the top of the list. Google insisted this was a result of their content-neutral algorithm responding to the high PageRank of the Jew Watch website[1]. A Google bomb was employed to place Wikipedia's entry, , at the top. Jew Watch was also highly ranked in other search engines, such as Yahoo! and MSN, but those companies apparently received little or no criticism.

Jew Watch's main page was dropped from Google's results at the end of April because Jew Watch's web hosting service EV1 cancelled its account, and the site was inaccessible for several days. Since Google's webcrawler could not reach the site after repeated attempts, the main page was dropped from Google's index. [1] The site later found another hosting service and was re-indexed by Google during the first week of May. Google explains that "The only sites we omit are those we are legally compelled to remove," in its disclaimer "Offensive Search Results" of April 23, 2004.

Claims of censorship

Sites advocating race as a virtue or historical revisionism have been banned for years in the French and German Googles, as such speech is illegal in those countries. Other potentially controversial sites such as hardcore pornographic sites have remained unaffected, however, and web-filtering programs have no effect on searches run from Google's Image section.

Claims of privacy invasion

It has been claimed that Google infringes the privacy of visitors by uniquely identifying them using cookies. It is claimed the cookies possess excessively distant expiry dates and that users' searches are recorded without permission for advertising purposes. In their defense Google claim cookies are necessary to maintain user preferences between sessions and the website otherwise functions normally if the user turns down the cookies.

Some users believe the processing of email message content by Google's GMail service goes beyond proper use. The point is often made that people without GMail accounts, who have not agreed to the GMail terms of service, but send email to GMail users have their correspondence analyzed without permission. Google claims that mail sent to or from GMail is never read by a human being, and is only used to improve relevance of advertisements.

Criticisms of PageRank system

Google's central PageRank system has been criticized, some calling it 'undemocratic'. Common arguments by Google's detractors are that the system is unfairly biased towards large sites, and that the criteria for a page's importance are not subject to peer review.



Google is reportedly working on a downloadable tool, code-named Puffin, for searching local files,

Related articles

External links links

Other national Googles

American Samoa, 2. Anguilla, 3. Antigua and Barbuda, 4. Argentina, 5. Australia, 6. Austria, 7. Azerbaijan, 8. Belgium, 9. Brazil, 10. British Virgin Islands, 11. Burundi, 12. Canada, 13. Chad, 14. Chile, 15. Colombia, 16. Costa Rica, 17. Côte d'Ivoire, 18. Cuba, 19. Dem. Rep. of the Congo, 20. Denmark, 21. Djibouti, 22. Dominican Republic, 23. Ecuador, 24. El Salvador, 25. Federated States of Micronesia, 26. Fiji, 27. Finland, 28. France, 29. The Gambia, 30. Georgia, 31. Germany, 32. Gibraltar, 33. Greece, 34. Greenland, 35. Guernsey, 36. Honduras, 37. Hong Kong, 38. Hungary, 39. India, 40. Ireland, 41. Isle of Man, 42. Israel, 43. Italy, 44. Jamaica, 45. Japan, 46. Jersey, 47. Kazakhstan, 48. Korea, 49. Latvia, 50. Lesotho, 51. Liechtenstein, 52. Lithuania, 53. Luxembourg, 54. Malawi, 55. Malaysia, 56. Malta, 57. Mauritius, 58. México, 59. Montserrat, 60. Namibia, 61. Nepal, 62. Netherlands, 63. New Zealand, 64. Nicaragua, 65. Norfolk Island, 66. Pakistan, 67. Panamá, 68. Paraguay, 69. Perú, 70. Philippines, 71. Pitcairn Islands, 72. Poland, 73. Portugal, 74. Puerto Rico, 75. Rep. of the Congo, 76. Romania, 77. Russia, 78. Rwanda, 79. Saint Helena, 80. San Marino, 81. Singapore, 82. Slovakia, 83. South Africa, 84. Spain, 85. Sweden, 86. Switzerland, 87. Taiwan, 88. Thailand, 89. Trinidad and Tobago, 90. Turkey, 91. Ukraine, 92. United Arab Emirates, 93. United Kingdom, 94. Uruguay, 95. Uzbekistan, 96. Vanuatu, 97. Venezuela, 98. Vietnam

All of these Google sites produce nearly the same search results, though they may be in a different order. Illegal sites are censored in localized versions of Google, such as domain "" in Google Germany. National Google sites allow users to search on a global basis or just for sites from that country. Some countries may have different default language settings.

Google News Country Links

Google calculator

Examples (the link texts are what is entered as if it were a search string):

Sites about Google

Google parodies