Happy Birthday, Google

ScreenshotOr more precisely, happy tenth birthday, Google. It was ten years ago this week that the little search engine company that could (and did) filed for incorporation – in part so they could cash a $100,000 check that had been made out to the then-nonexistent corporation. From that small start, they’ve grown into the juggernaut that we know today.

How would your life as a web worker be different today if there were no Google? While it’s always tough to predict what might not have been, here are some of the changes that it’s brought about in my own online life.

1. Search that works. Whatever else you think of their dominance of the web search market, the plain fact is that Google search works – and it works fabulously better than what we had before. Do you remember laboriously adding AND and OR and parentheses to increasingly-baroque search strings in the hopes of forcing Alta Vista to cough up the information you were looking for?

2. Advertising everywhere. Google didn’t invent the online ad, but it wasn’t until they started organizing the huge text-ad market that I started seeing ads on every blog and web page I visited. They’ve done a lot to set the standards, both in terms of what’s acceptable as advertising and how it gets paid for.

3. Online documents. Certainly there were ways to edit documents online before Google Docs came along. But were any of them so easy for the average internet user to pick up? Have any of the alternatives caught on to the point where people routinely use them instead of desktop software to get work done? I don’t think so.

4. Huge amounts of free storage. We take huge amounts of storage online for granted these days. That may make it hard to remember that GMail, with its gigabyte free per user, was actually regarded as a hoax by many when it launched, because no one would give away that much space (it didn’t help that it was announced on April 1). GMail’s storage has stayed ahead of most users’ requirements, and forced their competitors to follow suit.

What does Google mean to you as it turns ten? Do you think it can continue to have such an impact on our web working lives?

Image credit: stock.xchng user salvotech